By: Sydney Rowell, News Editor
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander remains steadfast in his support of President Trump’s pick for Education Secretary despite pushback from constituents and an obvious lack of qualifications from the candidate. A previous Secretary of Education himself, Senator Alexander is the Chairman of Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, yielding influential power over the confirmation of Trump-nominated Elizabeth DeVos.
One only has to watch a portion of DeVos’s hearing to realize the justification for pushing back on her nomination. Simple questions, such as the role of guns in school, leave her scrambling, and one question about equal accountability in all schools receiving federal funding was met by a robotic, “I support accountability.” When the question was repeated with the intention of an expansion on her previous answer, DeVos simply reverted to her previous statement, as if she was an actress who only learned one line.
When Democratic Senator Patty Murray requested a second hearing, Alexander rejected the request, claiming “I have carefully considered the request and decided not to schedule a second hearing, and here is why: Already Mrs. DeVos has spent considerably more time answering questions of committee members than either of President Obama’s education secretaries. I do not know why our committee should treat a Republican nominee so differently than the nominee of a Democratic president.”
Senator Alexander fails to realize the debate over Devos’s nomination is not a partisan issue. People are not opposed to DeVos simply because of her party affiliation. The length and extent of a cabinet hearing should align with the nominee in question and level of doubt their questioners hold, yet it is being dictated by precedents set by former hearings of less controversial picks.
Besides the fact that Senator Alexander seems more concerned with upholding the reputation of the Republican party than selecting the best candidate for the position that he himself has held, he has yet to acknowledge the fact that his Tennessee constituents have been outspoken in their discontent with DeVos, particularly in her support of school vouchers, otherwise known by its propaganda name “School Choice.”
The Knox County Board of Education recently passed a resolution, as it has in years past, that opposes school vouchers as they support the privatization of our schools. The Oak Ridge Board of Education has also passed a similar resolution, as have numerous other school systems in Tennessee. Students, teachers and parents have also taken less formal approaches to opposing DeVos by speaking out on social media and joining groups on FaceBook urging Senator Alexander to reconsider, which now have accumulated thousands of supporters.
The list of reasons to oppose DeVos would stretch for miles, but that is not the most concerning aspect of this confirmation process. Senator Alexander’s denial of furthering questioning and unwavering support of a nominee openly opposed by his constituents shows the true nature of his dedication to his party alignment. It is evident by his actions that the best interests of Senator Alexander lie within the Republican party, not the people. And certainly not our students.