February 03, 2017

Hirono to Oppose Betsy DeVos’ Nomination for Secretary of Education

Hirono: Why are we even debating the nomination of a person who clearly does not believe in our nation’s public schools?

Senator Mazie K. Hirono today announced that she will oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education.

From Senator Hirono’s remarks:

“Why are we even debating the nomination of a person who clearly does not believe in our nation’s public schools?

“We are going down the rabbit hole where up is down and down is up. It shouldn’t be asking too much to have an education secretary who will stand up for public schools and the millions of our children who attend our public schools.”

Click here to watch Senator Hirono’s remarks

Senator Hirono’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Madam President,

Why are we even debating the nomination of a person who clearly does not believe in our nation’s public schools?

No matter whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, no matter what part of the country you live in, whether rural or city, whether you have children or not, who would say that education in not important or valuable?

Who would say that education is not foundational to success in life?

Nine of every 10 students in the United States attend public school. Who among us would say these students should be led by a person who does not believes in public schools? Who among us would say that we should have an education secretary who does not commit to making public schools better for the sake of our children?

Then, we should ask ourselves, is Betsy DeVos the best that we can do for our children and young people?

Does Betsy DeVos believe in public schools? No.

Has Betsy DeVos ever been a teacher, a principal, or even attended public school? No.

Does Betsy DeVos believe that we should hold charter schools, which are public schools, equally accountable as other public schools? No.

Does Betsy DeVos understand educational civil rights laws that provide all children with disabilities the opportunity to pursue a free and appropriate public education? No.

Did Betsy DeVos commit to holding schools accountable on campus sexual assault? No.

Again, I ask, is Betsy DeVos the best we can do for our children and young people?  No.

Again, why then are we even here to debate whether such a person should lead our Department of Education?

We are going down the rabbit hole where up is down and down is up.

It shouldn’t be asking too much to have an education secretary who will stand up for public schools and the millions of our children who attend our public schools.

Education is foundational. I speak from experience.

When I came to this country at 8 years old, I didn’t speak any English. I attended public schools, where I learned how to speak English, I developed my love of reading, and I prepared for college. Public schools really helped prepare me for life.

And I had a great 6th grade teacher. His name is Yoshinobu Oshiro. Before he was a teacher, Mr. Oshiro served in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II, one of the segregated Japanese American units that went on to earn the Congressional Gold Medal. He really cared about his students and he encouraged me to study hard. I have stayed in touch with Mr. Oshiro for decades.

When I was last home in Hawaii, I invited him to the historic meeting of President Obama and Prime Minister Abe at Pearl Harbor. I wanted to make sure that Mr. Oshiro met both Prime Minister Abe and the President.  This happened, and today I brought a photo of Mr. Oshiro happily meeting President Obama on that historic day in Hawaii. Mr. Oshiro was a very important influence in my life.

In public schools across the country, there are many more Mr. Oshiros – teachers who go out of their way to support and encourage their students. They deserve a leader who will fight for them. Who understands the challenges our public schools face, and is committed to meeting these challenges. They deserve a leader who wants children in our public schools to succeed. If you can truly say that Betsy DeVos is that leader, that she is the best we can do for our children, then vote for her. But I cannot and thousands of my constituents agree.