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ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


Did Sen. Ted Cruz Really Cast the Deciding Vote to Confirm Betsy DeVos?

By Alyson Klein — October 18, 2018 2 min read
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U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, who is in a fierce race for the Senate, has hit his opponent, Republican Sen.Ted Cruz, for wanting to take money away from public schools, and for being the “deciding vote” in favor of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ confirmation.

“At a time when nearly half of the school teachers in Texas are working a second job just to make ends meet, Ted Cruz wants to take our public tax dollars out of their classrooms, turn them into vouchers,” O’Rourke says in a new campaign ad. “He was the deciding vote in putting Betsy DeVos in charge of our children’s public education. I want to pay teachers a living wage. I want to allow them to teach to the child, and not to the test. And when they retire, I want it to be a retirement of dignity. Those public educators have been there for us. Now it’s time to be there for them.”

It’s true that Cruz has been a big proponent of private school vouchers. And he was the author of a provision in the new tax law that allows families to use 529 college-savings plans for K-12 private schools.

But was he really the deciding vote on DeVos? DeVos was confirmed as secretary in February 2017, by a vote of 51-50. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in her favor, after two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, opposed her. That means pretty much any Republican who voted for DeVos was technically a “deciding vote.”

And O’Rourke isn’t the only Democrat using this argument. Democrat Jane Raybould, a Lincoln City, Neb., councilwoman who is running against Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., attacked Fischer in an August debate for casting the “decisive” vote in favor of DeVos.

DeVos has been an attractive target for Democratic political candidates, who have hit their opponents for taking money from her family and tried to associate them with her support for cutting education funding and allowing schools to use federal funds to arm teachers.

Another thing to note about O’Rourke’s ad: He seems to be trying to capitalize on anger over low teacher pay that has fueled walkouts and protests in half a dozen states. More on that movement here.

You can watch the ad here:

Beto O’Rourke speaks during the general session at the Texas Democratic Convention on June 22, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. --Richard W. Rodriguez/AP

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