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Hoeven, Cramer got it wrong

The U.S. Senate voted recently to confirm Betsy DeVos as education secretary. The U.S. Department of Education is now led by a person who does not support public schools, particularly the rural public schools that are the backbone of North Dakota. For the first time in our nation's history a Cabinet nominee required the Vice President to break a tie after the Senate voted 50-50 on Ms. DeVos' nomination. One vote was all that was needed to protect our students and teachers. Sen. John Hoeven could have been that vote but he chose instead to put partisanship over North Dakota's children.

Sen. Hoeven's vote was bad and his justification for it was worse. In a letter to a constituent, he admitted that Ms. DeVos has no relevant experience but cited her "business and administrative skills" as a reason to support her. Never mind that she does not understand the basic principles of using testing to measure growth or proficiency. Never mind that she doesn't understand student loans and Pell Grants. Nevermind that she refused four times during a Senate hearing on her nomination to answer whether she would privatize public schools.

Along with Sen. Hoeven's vote supporting Ms. DeVos, Rep. Kevin Cramer said in a radio interview that, while he didn't get to vote on DeVos as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he would proudly vote for her if he could. He said also that she stands for everything he does. That's pretty telling. And just what is it that Ms. DeVos stands for?

Ms. DeVos has long advocated for moving taxpayer dollars away from traditional public schools. Taking away those dollars in North Dakota would disproportionately harm students, teachers, and school districts in rural communities. Does Rep. Cramer stand for that? Further, in her confirmation hearing, Ms. DeVos showed that she does not possess even a basic understanding of the laws that govern education, including those that ensure students with disabilities get a good education. Does Rep. Cramer stand for that?

More than 3,300 North Dakotans contacted Sen. Heitkamp about Ms. DeVos' nomination, 90 percent of whom were opposed to her. Thank you to Senator Heidi Heitkamp for joining Republicans and Democrats alike in opposing Ms. DeVos. That decision reflects what is best for North Dakota, as Betsy DeVos is simply not qualified to lead the U.S. Department of Education.

North Dakotans deserve leaders who put our interests above partisan politics. Sen. Heitkamp has a long history of doing so. When Sen. Hoeven was presented with an opportunity to stand up for students and teachers, he placed his political party before them. Rep. Cramer, if he had the chance, stated that he would place his political party before them as well. We deserve better.

Robert Haider, Dem-NPL executive director

Bismarck