Oregon Democrats unite against DeVos nomination

Merkley, Blumenauer and Bonamici hold press conference

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and others rally against Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos in Portland, January 27, 2017 (KOIN)
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and others rally against Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos in Portland, January 27, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Democrats are united against President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

At a Friday morning press conference in downtown Portland, Senator Jeff Merkley, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici presented a petition that received more than 1.4 million signatures from Americans concerned that DeVos is not qualified for the position and would work to defund public schools including those in Oregon.

DeVos did not attend public school, nor did her children and she has never worked in public service before.

“With her, we have a nominee who is uniquely unqualified,” Merkley said. “In fact, she has been dedicated to tearing apart the foundations for successful public schools.”

Dozens of parents and grandparents gathered to show their support for Merkley’s strong opposition to DeVos. Merkley believes the grassroots push to block the confirmation makes a difference in perhaps convincing Republicans not to vote for her.

In Congress, Democrats say they will vote a solid “no” against her confirmation. She needs the support of 51 senators and Democrats hold 48 seats. That means 3 Republicans would need to vote against DeVos..

In a statement, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden — who is in the nation’s capital — said he will not vote for Betsy DeVos:

“A bedrock principle of America’s public educational system is investing public money in schools meant to serve everyone, not siphoning off scarce taxpayer dollars to private or religious education. Unfortunately, the president-elect’s choice for Education Secretary has indicated she supports an approach that flies in the face of America’s long-time, common-sense investment in public education opportunities that recognizes education is an essential rung to climb the economic ladder. … “

Wyden added DeVos has “wavered” on keeping students safe from gun violence, sex assaults on college campuses, and protecting all students from discrimination and harassment.

“I will be working to hold the next administration accountable for ensuring the safety of our students and keeping educational opportunities open to all,” Wyden said in his statement.

DeVos does have Oregon supporters.

Steve Buckstein, the head of the conservative think tank The Cascade Policy Institute, said he likes the ideas DeVos proposes.

“I like the idea that we could have somebody that could offer more choices for where kids can go to school,” he told KOIN 6 News.

The Cascade Policy Institute is in favor or educational tax credits to use at any school, public or private.

Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)