Following the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota issued a blistering statement, calling her unqualified for the job.
“It’s not a job for amateurs who don’t know the first thing about education,” the statement read. “I voted against the nomination of Betsy DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor, because she is the most incompetent cabinet-level nominee I have ever seen.”
Franken’s statement comes on the heels of one of the most contentious confirmation processes a secretary of education has ever seen. Typically, the position is confirmed without major opposition.
An advocate for alternatives to traditional public schooling, DeVos championed charter schools and school-voucher initiatives in her home state of Michigan, where she served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party.
Democrats have argued that she is unqualified to be secretary of education, a view that centered on a confirmation hearing in which DeVos was grilled on several issues and often gave vague answers or said she was currently unable to provide a response. In perhaps the most widely circulated exchange, when asked about guns on school campuses, DeVos noted that guns could “protect from potential grizzlies.”
This isn’t the first time Franken has had harsh words for DeVos. During her confirmation hearing in January, Franken asked DeVos for her opinion on measuring student progress — specifically, the debate between proficiency versus growth. When she appeared to get stuck on the answer, Franken criticised her for not knowing what he believed to be a basic question.
“This is a subject that has been debated in the education community for years,” Franken said. “It surprises me that you don’t know this issue.”