'It's the most embarrassing hearing I've ever attended': Al Franken takes on Betsy DeVos

Al Franken – not a fan of President Trump's pick for education secretary.
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Betsy DeVos will get a full vote from the U.S. Senate soon, deciding whether to confirm her as head of the Department of Education.

But U.S. Sen. Al Franken appears determined to make his opinion of her clear beforehand, saying Tuesday: "This is about someone who, uniquely almost, is so unqualified to be head of a department that is so crucial for our children in this country."

Franken is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (yes, that's the HELP committee), which voted Tuesday on whether to OK DeVos' nomination for a full Senate vote.

She got through by a 12-11 margin, The Hill reports. All 12 Republicans on the committee voted to approve her. All 10 Democrats and the lone Independent voted against her.

But during the meeting, Franken reiterated the issues he had during her confirmation hearing back on Jan. 18, when he said she “seemed unfamiliar with some of the most basic issues in education today.”

That includes her apparent confusion over growth (a student’s progress over the course of a school year) versus proficiency (the student’s grade level). And he went back to that on Tuesday. Here's the video, with quotes from it below:

Posted by U.S. Senator Al Franken on Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"We all know that a fifth-grade teacher who takes a kid from the second-grade level of reading say, to a fourth-grade level of reading is a hero. But if you measure by proficiency, that teacher is a goat," Franken said. "We know the importance of growth versus proficiency. There's not a teacher in this country that doesn't know that. There's not a principal that doesn't know that. There's not a superintendent that doesn't know that."

He continued: "This was one of the most embarrassing hearings – it's the most embarrassing hearing I've ever attended. This woman has less knowledge about public education than almost anyone who has any interest at all in education."

Franken also said he got more feedback about DeVos than he did any other nominee, almost all of it negative. In a Facebook post, Franken wrote he received nearly 20,000 letters and 3,000 phone calls about DeVos. "Virtually all" of them were negative, and fewer than 15 said she should be secretary of education, Franken wrote.

There are also questions Tuesday after the Washington Post discovered a written answer she gave a senator appeared to be plagiarized from a Justice Department civil rights division leader.

So who is DeVos?

DeVos is a billionaire philanthropist known for her work to expand charter schools and allow families to use tax dollars at private or religious schools. She has never worked in public education, and the New York Times says opponents have questions about her previous statements regarding public schools, her financial stake in the education industry, and contributions her family has made to conversion therapy-supporting groups.

Supporters though point to her support for choice among schooling, including charter schools and vouchers, Penn Live reports. Others have said she'll change the system to work better for kids.

USA Today notes not all Republicans in the Senate have committed to supporting her – and with a slim majority, even a few of them voting against President Donald Trump's nominee could sink her chances.

A vote on DeVos hasn't been scheduled yet. As for Trump's other nominees, GovTrack has a page dedicated to tracking the results of confirmation votes – you can find that here.

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