State Sen. Hill to champion embattled Trump education nominee DeVos in telepresser

Author: John Tomasic - January 26, 2017 - Updated: January 27, 2017

Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, at the Capitol.
Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, at the Capitol.

State Sen. Owen Hill will host a tele-press conference Monday to help generate support for the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s choice to head the department of education.

Hill, a Republican from Colorado Springs, chairs of Senate’s education committee and has been a leading school choice advocate at the Capitol for years and a champion of DeVos since she was nominated this month.

“She’s actually kind of new to the national education stage,” he told The Colorado Statesman. “So we want to talk about it, talk about some of her accomplishments, talk about the affordance of choice within public schools as a way to strengthen the public school system.”

Monday’s telepresser is aimed at countering the intense protest campaign opposed to the DeVos candidacy that has clogged phone lines and email accounts at U.S. Senate offices this week, including the office of Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

Bennet is a member of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education and Labor, which is tasked with approving the DeVos nomination before it can move to the full Senate for a vote.

Critics of DeVos point to positions they say are at odds with public education, her lack of experience in government and with school teaching and administration, her open support for religious education and the fact that she has given millions of her family fortune in political donations and perhaps to some of the lawmakers who may be voting on her nomination.

Hill said he thought DeVos was unfairly “sandbagged” during hearings this week and that she’s just the kind of outsider who could shake up the department and bring great benefits to the nation’s state school systems.

“That was wrong, how they sandbagged her during the hearings. The fact is, we need an outsider, someone who can bring fresh thinking.

“It’s national school choice week, this week,” he said. “Many folks say school choice is anti-public schools. We want to say that’s completely wrong. I think it’s just another public option. The more options we have, the stronger the whole system.

“I think DeVos brings that perspective… I mean, Republicans and Democrats, everyone I talk to says, ‘Look, Colorado should be doing a Colorado thing — and the more Washington, DC, can do to give us more responsibility and resources to do that, that’s good.’ I think we’re all in agreement on that front.”

Colorado has long been a battleground in education policy wars. School boards have worked at the cutting edge of the reform movement — where experiments in student testing, teacher evaluation, vouchers, privatization and choice have fueled passionate debate. Board elections routinely draw the eye of national education interests and vast sums of campaign money.

“The Colorado thing is everything, that’s what’s great about it,” Hill said. “We got traditional public schools. We got public charter schools. We got private schools. We got home schools. You got early colleges. We’ve got all these different cool programs going on here. Let us keep doing our thing. Let parents, students and teachers make those decisions. That’s what makes our system so strong.

“But whatever we’re doing here in Colorado, that’s maybe not what they should be doing in California or Kentucky,” Hill said. “Success at the federal level means empowering different sates. The more successful DeVos is, the more empowered we are in Colorado to spend our own money and in our own way for our own progress.”

Hill will be joined on the call by Gerard Robinson, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and Mike Miles, head of Pike Peak Prep, a charter school program.

*Edit note: An earlier version of this story published the conference press release under the assumption the event was a tele-town hall. In fact, the call is intended only for members of the media.

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.


  • Leslie Peterson

    January 27, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I disagree. I believe Betsy DeVos will be terrible for the future of education in our country. She is completely unqualified and can not answer simple questions regarding assessment. She can not confirm that schools that receive federal money have to teach the same standards and teach ALL kids. She is unfamiliar with the American’s with Disabilities Act and can not promise that schools (charter) that receive federal money will comply with the ADA. Betsy Devos’ vision of improving American schools is by teaching Alternative Facts (no evolution, no fact-based climate change or global warming, no sexual education). We need to make sure religion stays out of schools because America is a land of many diverse religious views and one is not superior to another. We need to make sure that our poorest and most vulnerable students have access to a great education by providing free transportation, legal access for everyone, and standards that challenge our students. Endorsing Betsy DeVos is again playing to the top 5-10% of Americans. Vote NO.

    • David

      January 27, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Thank you! “..made a clear case for making education work for every child in America, including kids who are under-represented and disproportionately living in communities of color.” I don’t understand how that is possible when she didn’t even know that ADA was a federal law, and based on her answers I don’t think she even knows what it is…
      At least she knows how to deal with grizzly bears :/

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  • Lenora Degen

    January 27, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree. We are a nation of brilliant, creative thinkers, with outstanding ethics, education and diversity. Why this one person? What makes her the BEST? I so want to side with you, sir, as a yogi and Coloradan, but I must ask you to think harder. Is this the BEST? choice for our children?

  • Cindy Perry

    January 27, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    How can you possibly believe that states in the south which as recently as this last election have denied voting rights to minorities will insure that minority children will have a right to a quality education. Our public education system is in need of fair and unbiased oversight. The children, our teachers and our future depend on a quality department of education. Betsey Devos has bought her influence, however, has no experience whatsoever in pubic education. She was a disaster for the State of Michigan. She was inept at answering the most basic questions. We deserve better.

  • WRM

    January 28, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    Senator Hill – definitely a champion for public education. This week, he voted against a bill that would put to the Colorado voters whether they wanted to use excess tax revenues to fund full day kindergarten for ALL children in Colorado, not just the ones who can afford it. There was much testimony from educators, sharing the clear benefits of full-day kindergarten, especially for students most at-risk. Not that Senator Hill heard any of it – he left the room. Then came back in just in time for the vote, and voted against the measure. Let me be clear – the only question was whether this issue should be put to all Colorado voters. And he refused. He said it should be a local decision. Of course, in my school districts, it isn’t a decision at all – there is simply no money to fund full-day kindergarten, since the state doesn’t provide full per-pupil revenue to school districts for kindergarteners. As for DeVos, she wasn’t sand-bagged. She is simply ignorant with respect to many critical issues regarding public education. That isn’t unfair, it is just the truth. Senator Hill clearly doesn’t care at all about ensuring that ALL children in the United States are afforded the opportunity for a great public education – just the rich, white, Christian ones that DeVos and her ilk (and Hill’s ilk) support. Shame on all of them.

  • laurie langley

    January 29, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Are you kidding me? Did watch? She was unable to answer simple questions. NO on DeVos. Period. Colorado does NOT want Betsy DeVos and neither does the rest of this country.

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