Tester to DeVos: Your Decision Has Serious Consequences

Senator Holds Education Secretary Accountable to Montana Students

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester has a simple message for Education Secretary Betsy Devos: Your bureaucratic decision to reject the University of Montana’s Upward Bound application based on arbitrary formatting requirements has serious consequences.

Tester today introduced the Department of Education Accountability Act to rescind $500,000 from DeVos’ personal office budget for every week that she refuses to reconsider the University of Montana’s revised Upward Bound application after it was rejected for the sole reason it wasn’t double spaced. Tester secured a provision earlier this month in the federal budget that pressures DeVos to reconsider UM’s application, but she is ignoring that provision.

“Secretary DeVos needs to understand that her decisions to deny students opportunities will have serious consequences,” Tester said. “Upward Bound has five decades of success at the University of Montana and helps the families who need it the most. Because Secretary DeVos has continued to ignore Montanans and undermine their dream of earning a college degree, this bill is needed to hold her accountable and ensure students have every shot at success.”

University of Montana Upward Bound alumni expressed to Tester the importance of the program that helps low-income and first generation college students earn degrees.

“TRiO Upward Bound was the most influential factor in my success not only as a student, but also as an individual,” said Elle Cook, PharmD Candidate, Class of 2020. “I would be half the student and person I am today if Upward Bound had not been there guiding me through all of my obstacles.”

“Growing up on the Blackfeet Reservation, I did not always think I could succeed or even attend college,” said Annie Belcourt, PhD and Associate Professor at the University of Montana. “The University of Montana’s Upward Bound program gave me the skills, confidence, and courage required to become a successful college student and to thrive in graduate school.”

Tester’s bill, the Department of Education Accountability Act, will rescind funds only from the Department of Education’s Office of the Secretary. These funds specifically pay for the salaries and expenses of DeVos and her senior staff.

The Office of the Secretary received nearly $17 million in fiscal year 2016.

Tester last month recruited 23 bipartisan Senators to send a letter to DeVos about the absurdity of the Department’s rejection of applications due to arbitrary formatting requirements.

Tester was the only member of Montana’s Congressional Delegation to oppose DeVos’ nomination as Education Secretary.