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Betsy DeVos Won't Rule Out Defunding Public Schools

NBC News logo NBC News 1/18/2017 Emma Margolin
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Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Department of Education, faced tough questions on Tuesday from Democratic lawmakers at her charged confirmation hearing.

DeVos refused to promise that she would not privatize or strip funding from the public schools she would oversee if confirmed.

Asked bluntly by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington whether she would commit to keeping funding for public schools intact, DeVos dodged the question.

"I look forward, if confirmed, to talking about how we address the needs of all parents and all students," she said.

Murray also pressed DeVos on potential conflicts of interests that could arise from her family's long history of donating its vast wealth to Republican candidates and causes.

Image: Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 17. © Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 17.

Trump's transition team said Tuesday morning that DeVos had last month submitted a certified ethics agreement and financial disclosure statement, which would reveal any conflicts of interests she might have if confirmed. However, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has yet to clear her.

"Where conflicts are identified, they will be resolved," DeVos said. "I will not be conflicted. Period. I commit that to you all."

Related:Senate Dems to Grill Betsy DeVos, Trump's Education Secretary Pick

Tuesday's hearing turned testy before DeVos had even said a word. Virtually every Democratic member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee repeatedly asked the chairman, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, for more time to question the cabinet nominee. But each time Alexander refused, citing a "precedent" of five-minute rounds of questioning for education secretary nominees. Multiple Democratic members said they'd never heard of such a rule.

DeVos has raised numerous concerns for her support of school choice and voucher programs that critics say would pull resources from struggling public schools and stifle diversity. DeVos' nomination has also been opposed for her family's ties to anti-LGBT groups and for her lack of experience in public education.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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