Tester Meets with Department of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos

Senator Emphasized the Importance of Public Education, Voiced Concerns on Behalf of Montanans

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator and former teacher Jon Tester today discussed the importance of public education in Montana and rural America with Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Education Secretary.

“As a former teacher, school board member, and public school graduate, I know how important public education is. It’s the basis of our democracy and it is the reason why our country has been the leader of the free world for decades and decades. The problems facing our schools are real and we need to make it clear that we are going to improve our public school system for the next generation of leaders of this country,” Tester said. “I had a solid meeting with the Secretary of Education nominee, but I really think she needs to familiarize herself with the challenges not only in our public school systems in urban America but especially in rural America. It is critically important that we have a leader of our public education system in this country that understands the importance of public education and is ready to build-not detract-on its ability to educate our next generation.”

Tester solicited input from Montanans on his website about what he should ask President-elect Trump’s nominees and received an overwhelming response from local teachers and parents about DeVos. Montanans from all across the state have expressed concern over Mrs. DeVos’s lack of public education experience and her history supporting vouchers. Tester voiced those concerns in his meeting with DeVos.

In addition to discussing his opposition to privatizing public schools, Tester addressed other topics that are important across Montana, including standardized testing, local control, and the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Standardized Testing
A longtime advocate for testing reform, Tester grilled DeVos on the importance of reducing the testing burden on students and teachers. Tester’s Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act would remove the annual testing requirement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and replace it with fewer federal tests.

ESSA Implementation
With the ongoing implementation of ESSA, Tester stressed the importance of carrying out the law the way Congress intended by shifting more power back to states and local school districts. Tester recently held a roundtable to discuss ESSA and asked DeVos if she would make sure local stakeholders have more control over their schools. Tester included an amendment to ESSA that requires the Secretary of Education to receive input from local stakeholders like school boards before developing any new rules or regulations.

Special Education
Tester urged DeVos to work on fully funding special education, which is a struggle for cash-strapped rural schools. He emphasized that the federal government has a long way to go to meet its promise to fund 40 percent of the costs of educating students with disabilities-it currently only covers 16 percent of the cost. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Tester has pushed for increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

DeVos will appear before the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee and her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate.