NAICU Washington Update

Secretary DeVos Defends Budget to House Appropriators

June 01, 2017

U. S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made her first appearance before Congress since her contentious confirmation process last winter.  In a hearing before the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee, she defended the administration’s FY 2018 education budget to the appropriators who will provide funding for the Department. 

Republican members of the subcommittee were respectful of the Secretary, but made clear they disagreed with the budget proposal, which cuts education spending by $9 billion.  Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) noted he wanted to know more about the cuts to SEOG, work study, TRIO and GEAR UP because he has “a different opinion,” and views these programs as being important to providing access to higher education for low- and middle-income families.  Full Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) noted his concern about underfunding special education.  Other Republican members attended to greet the Secretary and ask questions about specific pet programs, but did not stay for the entire hearing.

Democrats on the subcommittee, however, remained for the entire hearing, and took a more aggressive approach to questioning the Secretary.  Many mentioned proposed cuts to Pell Grant funding and the elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  However, the one area that received attention from all Democrats was Secretary DeVos’s school choice proposal, with members accusing her of taking funds from public education to give to private schools.  Also, an exchange at the end of the hearing with Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) got heated over questioning about the protections for students with disabilities at private schools if school choice were enacted.  

The Secretary is next scheduled to appear before the Senate education subcommittee on June 6, where more fireworks are expected, as many subcommittee Senators also participated in her combative confirmation hearing earlier this year.