Confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, a charter schools advocate favored by the Orthodox Jewish community, have been put off a week as federal ethics watchdogs struggle to complete their review of the billionaire’s massive holdings.
Betsy DeVos, a philanthropist and a prominent supporter of the so-called “school choice” agenda, is a favorite of Orthodox Jewish education advocates, who see her as friendly to their interests. Groups she funded and ran have worked alongside Orthodox advocacy organizations for years.
In early January, Democrats called for DeVos’s confirmation to be delayed past January 11, saying that the Office of Governmental Ethics had not been given sufficient time to review her assets for potential conflicts of interest. The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee announced late on the night of January 9 that DeVos’s hearing would be delayed until January 17.
Meanwhile, opposition to DeVos’s confirmation has grown. A coalition of leading national civil rights groups, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, sent a letter to senators calling the billionaire the “wrong choice” for Secretary of Education.
“We…cannot support a nominee who has demonstrated that she seeks to undermine bedrock American principles of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination and public education itself,” the Leadership Conference wrote.
The American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, both major Jewish organizations, are members of the Leadership Conference, but both told the Forward that they had taken no position on DeVos’s nomination.
A New York Times editorial on Tuesday raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest between DeVos’s business holdings and the work of the Department of Education.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.