Profiles in Tremendousness - Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos

January 18, 2017 - Samantha Power 01/18/2017 Views: 423,551

During Betsy DeVos's confirmation hearing for education secretary, Senate Democrats grill the businesswoman for not knowing policy basics and for her hefty GOP donations. (8:13)

Watch Full Episode

Over the past few weeks, thesenate has been holding hearings

on Trump's cabinet nominees.

And the hearings have raisedimportant questions

about each of them.

For instance, is Rex Tillersontoo loyal to oil?

Jeff Sessions--is he down with the brown?

(like Carson): And will beCarson be good for the hood?

You see, it's 'cause "hood,"we're trying to make-- anyway...

Uh, but of all Trump's picks,none seem to be less prepared

than the one we saw yesterday.

Which brings usto our continuing segment,

Profiles in Tremendousness.

I havethe most dedicated people.

I have the best people.

Meet Betsy DeVos,

Trump's nomineefor secretary of education.

She's a billionairebusinesswoman from Michigan,

she's a major voice forconservative education reform,

and-- a lot of peopledon't know this--

she's the cofounderof the '90s R&B group,

-Bell Biv DeVos. Yeah.-(laughter)

Uh, yes, they hadto kick her out, because...

-♪ That girl was poison. -(laughter)

But her illustrioushistory aside,

the big question is...

is Betsy DeVos qualified

to leadthe education department?

Well, yesterdaythe senate sat her down

to test her on her knowledgeof education stuff.

And right away you knew therewas going to be a problem

when she couldn't answera simple yes-or-no question.

Do you thinkthat schools that receive...

K-12 schools that receivegovernment funding

should meet the sameaccountability standards...

...equal accountabilityin any K-12 school

or educational programthat receives federal funding,

whether public,public charter or private?

-I support accountability.-Equal accountability

for all schools that receivefederal funding?

-I support accountability.-Okay, is that a yes or a no?

That's a...I support accountability.

Do you not wantto answer my question?

I support accountability.


Sorry, sorry.


I'm sorry, I just--when I watched that,

I had a flashbackto every single time

I called tech support, you know?

When they just keep sayingthe same thing and it's just...



I'm surprised Tim Kainedidn't start screaming,

"Operator, operator!

I just want to talk to a human."

Now, now, the reasonBetsy's ducking that question

is because she wantsto take taxpayer money

from public schoolsand send it to private schools,

without holding the privateschools to the same standards.

Which means the taxpayercould be paying for schools

with less qualified teachers,crappier curricula,

weaker testing and worst chickennuggets in the cafeteria.

Yeah. You know that off-brand

where every once in a whileyou're like,

"Oh, there's a crunch.I don't know why

there's a crunchy thingin a nugget."

You know those? Yeah.

Now, now one of Betsy DeVos'smain jobs

would be to improvestudent performance.

Now, some say you should measurethat by what students know,

as in proficiency.

Others say you should measure it

by how much students improve:growth.

Betsy DeVos, she says, "Wha... ?

I would like your-your viewson the relative advantage

of measuring, doing assessments,

and using themto measure proficiency,

or to measure growth.

If I'm understanding yourquestion correctly,

around proficiency, I would,I would also, um,

correlate it to competencyand mastery,

so that you--each student is measured

according to the, um,advancement that they're making

in each subject area...

-Well, that's growth.-It's, uh...

That's not proficiency.

Proficiency is if they'vereached a--

like, third grade levelfor reading, etc.

No. I'm talking about the debatebetween proficiency and growth.

I was kind of, uh, surprised--

Well, I'm not that surprised

that you did not knowthis issue.





I would like to enterthat shade into the record.

Yeah. Immediately after,

he said that all the othersenators were like,


So, okay, okay, okay.

Uh, so Betsy did not do well

on the verbal part ofFranken's questioning.

How did she do on the math?

You said that student debthas increased by 1,000%?

-Since 2009.-980% in eight years.

-I'm sorry.-980%.

-That's not-- that's just notso. -That's almost a thousand.

-It's increased 118%in the past eight years. -Hmm.


Yo. Can I ask a question?

Why don't they ever fight backin these hearings?

She should have just been like,"Oh, yeah?

I forgot to carry the one."

She should just do that.

I mean...

But here-here's a questionI have.

How do you put this person incharge of America's education?

It's like hiring an Amish personto run NASA, you know?

(with Amish accent): All right,let's strap some of the horses

to the space shuttle,

and take it to heaven.

I don't, I don't even knowif that was a good

or bad Amish accent.

No, I mean it's not likethey're gonna watch the show

and complain, so I mean...

I don't know.

Did you seewhat Trevor Noah said?

Me neither.

So one-one of the hearing'smost revealing moments

was, uh,when Senator Chris Murphy,

who representsNewtown, Connecticut,

the site of theSandy Hook shooting,

he asked DeVosabout guns in school.

You can't say definitely today

that guns shouldn't bein schools?

Well, I-I will refer back to,uh, Senator Enzi,

and the schoolthat he was talking about

in Wapiti, Wyoming.

I think probably there,I-I would imagine

that there's probablya gun in the school

to protect frompotential grizzlies.

Get the (bleep) out of here,man.

Should schools have guns?

And you say, yeah,they should have guns

because maybe grizzly bears?

Let me, let me tell yousomething, and this is true.

We called the schoolin Wyoming she's talking about.

And a bear answered the phone--

No. Uh, we called the school...

We called the schooland they told us

that they don't have a gun,

because they have a fenceand bear spray,

and that works fine.

Like, here's another question.

Like, you-you're trying tojustify having guns in school.

What do you thinkthere are more of in America?

School shootingsor school bear attacks, huh?

In fact, I would argue,every school should have a bear

to protect them from guns,that's what they should have.


So after a day of hearings,

we learned Betsy DeVosclearly has no clue

about how to runthe education department.

So, uh, the question is,

why is she being nominatedin the first place?

Mrs. DeVos, there isa growing fear, I think,

in this country that we aremoving toward, uh,

what some would call anoligarchic form of society.

Would you be so kindas to tell us, uh,

how much moneyyour family has contributed

to the Republican partyover the years?

I wish I could give youthat number. I don't know.

SANDERS: I have heardthe number was 200 million.

Does that sound in the ballpark?

It-it... Collectively,

-between my entire family?-Yeah, over the years, yes.

That's po... that's possible.

Do you think if your family

has not made hundredsof millions of dollars

in contributionsto the Republican party,

that you would besitting here today?


Bernie, we miss you, Bernie.

Why didn't we listen, Bernie?

Oh, Bernie.

But he's right.

She's gonna get confirmed eventhough she failed everything.

Every subjectshe got at the hearing--

failed, failed, failed, failed.

Except donations 101.

And that's whyI feel like this hearing

was a perfect metaphorfor the worst

of the education systemin America.

Here's a studentwho's clearly not proficient

in the required subject matter.

But because of the system,

we know they're stillgonna get pushed through.

We'll be right back.