To call newly confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos “a school choice advocate” is an understatement.
She’s a menace to public education.
DeVos has never been a teacher or school administrator. Her mission in life isn’t to educate on the fundamentals of teaching: expanding minds, enabling critical thinking, and preparing young people to thrive in a complex world. No, her stated life’s purpose is to “advance God’s kingdom.” As such, she’s been a champion of for-profit religious and charter schools. Her idea of a good education entails religious indoctrination in the same way that schools in a totalitarian regime require the militarization of thought to coincide with the government’s agenda.
All of this made DeVos one of the most controversial of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees.
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Once again, Sen. Marco Rubio was in the position to make a difference — but didn’t.
Scores of constituents called and wrote letters asking he vote No on the DeVos nomination. So many reached out that his phone was perennially busy, his message box full. Given DeVos’ lack of expertise, unpreparedness at her confirmation hearings and countless other shortcomings, pretending to care about the fate of public education was the least Rubio could’ve done for Floridians.
But DeVos was always a real slam dunk Yes vote for Rubio, who was chronically absent from his Senate perch the past four years, but is now working hard to validate the agenda of the president whom he called on the campaign trail “a con man.”
Running for reelection in Miami, Rubio sold himself as a checks-and-balances senator to a possible Trump presidency.
But his vote to confirm DeVos is Rubio’s latest bow to Trump — and money.
First, there was the Rex Tillerson and Marco Rubio show: Vladimir Putin friend vs. anti-Castro warrior senator.
Rubio owed that to his Miami Cuban base.
In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Rubio came at Tillerson with the zest of a trial attorney, questioning and confronting him. Would Tillerson label Putin a “war criminal” over his actions in Syria? Tillerson said he would not. Rubio lectured on human rights. He was on fire. The Internet cheered him. Rubio was back at work!
Rubio could’ve torpedoed Tillerson’s nomination right then and there. But, as we all know, he announced on Facebook that he would vote to confirm his nomination. (The ever-eloquent senator needs more characters than Twitter affords.)
And he did; he caved and voted to confirm Trump’s Putin-loving buddy.
His vote for DeVos, flawed as she is, shouldn’t surprise.
She’s a generous Republican donor who contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the GOP senators who voted Tuesday to confirm her. Of all the money that she and her family, who founded and ran the pyramid-style sales company Amway, gave to elect Republicans to Congress over the years, Rubio got the largest chunk — $98,000, according to the Center for American Progress.
On top of that, billionaire DeVos is an unabashed advocate of for-profit schools. In Florida, they’ve sprouted like weeds, thanks to the Republican-dominated Legislature and local governments that approve zoning and construction of schools that siphon public education dollars.
Given the scenario, Rubio’s demeanor toward his concerned constituents is consistent with his dismissal of pleas for him to vote for the Affordable Care Act and act on immigration reform. He has no time for people who don’t think like him or pass his ideological test.
If he really were a “checks-and-balances” senator as he claimed, Rubio could’ve made a big difference twice now. Two Republicans from Maine and Alaska broke rank and voted with Democrats to block DeVos’ nomination. Only one more was needed.
But why would Rubio part with party when respected Republicans like John McCain voted for DeVos? And when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed her, clearing the path for reasonable Republicans to fall right in line with the party?
When the vote came to a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence, an entrenched Catholic ideologue, predictably swooped in to save the day for Trump, DeVos, and the Republican Party, which stands the best chance it has ever had in bringing back proselytising to public education.
According to the Senate historian, it was the first time that a vice president was called to break a tie on a Cabinet nomination. But for all of its infamous firsts, the Donald Trump presidency is proving to be no fluke.
The Betsy DeVos confirmation is evidence that Republicans feel right at home with their new party leader and his agenda.
Miami’s chameleon senator is no exception.