Divided on DeVos

Gardner votes to confirm Betsy DeVos as education secretary, Bennet votes no

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. (Photo by Michael Reaves/The Denver Post)

Colorado’s U.S. senators split their votes along party lines Tuesday in the historic vote confirming billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos as U.S. education secretary.

Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, rejected DeVos’s nomination, while Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, supported President Donald Trump’s pick.

Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-splitting vote after two Republicans joined the Senate’s 48 Democrats in opposing DeVos — the first time a vice president’s vote was required to confirm a cabinet appointment.

Gardner faced pressure from Colorado teachers and parents to oppose DeVos, including a Saturday morning rally outside his downtown Denver office.

DeVos, a Michigan school choice advocate, unexpectedly became one of Trump’s most controversial cabinet picks after she stumbled at her confirmation hearing.

Leading up to Tuesday’s vote, Democrats spoke out against DeVos from the Senate floor.

“Ms. DeVos has shown no evidence of her commitment to be the torchbearer for both excellence and equity,” said Bennet, a former Denver Public Schools superintendent.

“A commitment to choice without a commitment to quality serves ideology rather than improvement, and a commitment to competition without a commitment to equity would forsake our democratic ideal that a free, high-quality public education must open the doors of opportunity for all.”

Gardner issued the following statement after the vote:

As a product of public schools myself, and a father with one child – soon to be three – in the public school system, I believe it is important to have someone leading the Department of Education who will fight for public schools. When I had the opportunity to meet Betsy DeVos personally, she pledged to me that she would be an advocate for public schools, teachers and educational opportunity for all. The debate around her nomination has been a healthy exercise of our democracy, made all the more important because it involves our most precious possession, our children. As someone who believes education decisions should be left to parents and their children with policy driven locally, Congress will hold her accountable and I will work to ensure she lives up to the commitment she made to me.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”