CFI Urges Senators: Question Betsy DeVos on Plans for Privatization and Religion in Public Education

January 9, 2017

The Center for Inquiry has submitted a letter to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions requesting that, during its confirmation hearing for Secetary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, members thoroughly question Ms. DeVos regarding her history of supporting efforts to privatize public education, her beliefs about the importance of the public education system, and her plans for improving that system.

In our letter, written by CFI Director of Government Affairs Michael De Dora, we expressed "serious concerns regarding the nomination of Ms. DeVos." As we wrote:

CFI is an educational and advocacy organization that advances reason, science, and humanist values. We strongly oppose school vouchers and similar schemes: not only do they demonstrably fail to bring the benefits their supporters promise to education, they also actively cause harm in multiple ways: they violate the separation of church and state and religious liberty; deprive students of fundamental rights and protections; lack oversight and accountability; and divert desperately needed resources away from public schools, which serve 90 percent of all students, to fund the private education of a few voucher students. We also believe public education is a common, humanistic good in our democratic society, and must be protected and supported.

Accordingly, we have serious concerns regarding the nomination of Ms. DeVos. As you may be aware, Ms. DeVos has a lengthy and, we would argue, destructive record of advocating for the privatization of the public education system. She has vowed to continue this effort as Secretary of Education.In particular, Ms. DeVos has demonstrated a desire to place private, religious schools front and center in the education plans for the nation as a whole. She has dedicated particular energy to enacting and expanding school voucher schemes, which funnel taxpayer money from secular, pluralistic public schools to private, overwhelmingly sectarian religious schools. This focus on religious schools is not by coincidence: Ms. DeVos has referred to her work as a way to “advance God’s kingdom,” and devoted significant resources to advancing conservative Christian values in schools. Will Ms. DeVos consider this a central part of her work as Secretary of Education? To advance a sectarian agenda from the Department of Education would be both detrimental to students’ education and blatantly unconstitutional. The American public deserves to know if she plans to do so.

DeVos' confirmation hearing is scheduled to take place Wednesday, January 11.

You can read and download our letter here.  

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