Eli Broad, a billionaire philanthropist from California and major backer of charter schools, is urging senators to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, saying that she is unqualified for the job.
“At the risk of stating the obvious, we must have a Secretary of Education who believes in public education and the need to keep public schools public,” Broad wrote in a letter Wednesday to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“With Betsy DeVos at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, much of the good work that has been accomplished to improve public education for all of America’s children could be undone.”
Broad’s opposition to DeVos is notable in part because it illuminates the extent of the opposition movement.
Republicans have argued that Democrats are fighting against DeVos out of allegiance to teachers unions. Broad is a major Democratic booster. But he has used his wealth to promote charter schools in Los Angeles and cities nationwide, and could hardly be considered in the pocket of unions. In fact, unions have often attacked him, alleging that he is trying to undermine public education.
Broad expressed his opposition at a time when DeVos’s nomination appeared to be hanging by a thread, after two Republican senators, Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), said Wednesday they plan to vote against her.
However, the White House press secretary and key GOP senators said that they were still confident DeVos will be confirmed.
Broad has spent more than $140 million backing charter schools and is a proponent of strict accountability for schools. He does not support vouchers, according to a spokeswoman.
He wrote in his letter, which was sent by email to all Senate offices, that he has had serious concerns since DeVos’s nomination about her support for “unregulated charter schools and vouchers as well as the potential conflicts of interest she might bring to the job.”
He said his concern grew after her Jan. 17 confirmation hearing, where she stumbled over basic policy questions.
“I now also question her ability to enforce key provisions of the range of federal statutes entrusted to this role,” Broad wrote.
“In short, I believe she is unprepared and unqualified for the position. As someone who is deeply committed to the belief that all children deserve access to a strong public education, I hope you will join me in opposing Mrs. DeVos’s nomination.”