Judgment of teacher preparation better left to states

The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to overturn the regulations governing Obama’s teacher-preparation programs.  Education Week quoted Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), the bill’s sponsor, saying, “This regulation actually makes the assumption that bureaucrats in Washington are competent to micromanage teacher-training programs in America.” Senate HELP ranking Democrat Patty Murray “said the rules would ensure that prospective teachers have more and better information about teacher-training programs” and “would protect teacher preparation from the as-yet unknown approach that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would take.”

The House version with these changes passed last month and President Trump is expected to sign the bill. With the change, states will not be required to report on the “success rate of teacher-training programs, partly on the basis of graduates’ employment and evaluations of their work.” It also will mean that funding of federal Teach Grants to prospective teachers no longer will be tied to this reporting.

The National Council on Teacher Quality, which was involved in brokering these new rules, criticized the bill, with reports quoting: “Repealing these rules would tell the institutions that they will not be held accountable for how well they train teachers.”

DeVos is Confirmed

The Senate today approved Betsy DeVos as the next secretary of education when Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in her favor. The vote by a vice president to break a deadlock over a cabinet official was a first in U.S. history.  Despite the opposition, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to advance her nomination to the full Senate. The New York Times posted the following:

“The 51-to-50 vote elevates Ms. DeVos — a wealthy donor from Michigan who has devoted much of her life to expanding educational choice through charter schools and vouchers, but has limited experience with the public school system — to be steward of the nation’s schools. Two Republicans voted against Ms. DeVos’s confirmation, a sign that some members of President Trump’s party are willing to go against him, possibly foreshadowing difficulty on some of the president’s more contentious legislative priorities.”

The Fight Continues

 The New York Times reports that Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he is “100 percent confident” that Betsy DeVos “will be the next secretary of education.” But media reporting shows that won’t happen without a fight.  USA Today quoted Sen. Susan Collins as saying that DeVos’ “concentration on charter schools and vouchers … raises the question about whether or not she fully appreciates that the secretary of education’s primary focus must be on helping states and communities … strengthen our public schools.” The Wall Street Journal reported that Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she will vote against DeVos because thousands of her constituents in Alaska have contacted her to express concerns that are similar to her own. The Washington Times said that with the GOP holding a 52-48 majority in the Senate, votes against DeVos by Collins and Murkowski mean “it’s unlikely Mrs. DeVos will get more than 50 votes’ support.” That would mean that Vice President Pence could cast a tie-breaking vote.