At least two Republican senators will join Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and other Democratic senators in voting "no" on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be President Donald Trump's secretary of education. The vote is scheduled in the U.S. Senate Friday, Feb. 3.
Of Trump's Cabinet nominees, DeVos is among the least qualified for the intended job because of her uninformed and ideologically skewed views of public education. Her ignorance was on display during her Senate committee hearing during which she was unable to answer even softball questions about long-standing education policies. It was, as Sen. Heitkamp put it, "probably the worst performance (of any of the nominees)."
But more importantly, Heitkamp heard from hundreds of her North Dakota constituents (it was 1,400 and counting by midweek) who said they did not want DeVos to lead the federal Department of Education. The objections crossed party lines, which makes sense in North Dakota where public education occupies a special place in the history and heritage of the state. The importance of public schools is endemic to the state's public policy DNA. The state's attention to schools-whether by generous funding or focused attention on quality-has been a priority since statehood.
DeVos, on the other hand, has virtually no experience with public schools. Her billionaire status has insulated her and her family from attending public schools, or even acknowledging them. It has been suggested that her familiarity with public education is limited to her having driven by a public school now and again. That might be a generous assessment.
DeVos embarrassed herself at her Senate hearing. Even reliably friendly Republican senators on the committee came away shaking their heads about DeVos' lack of basic knowledge of the nation's education systems-both public and private. In the end, she cleared the committee, but two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have since said they will not support DeVos when the Senate votes Friday. Like Sen. Heitkamp, they have their priorities right: public education before political expediency. Which raises the question: Is Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., listening to the bipartisan concern from his state, or is he unalterably wedded to the Trump agenda?
Editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.