Democrat calls for DeVos to be ‘replaced’

The Detroit News

Democratic U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a former school board member, said she wants Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to be “replaced” following an interview with “60 Minutes” in which DeVos showed she’s “out of touch” with American schools.

DeVos has been criticized for struggling in Sunday’s interview, during which she admitted not knowing whether traditional public schools in Michigan improved since she began advocating to open the state to choice and charter schools.

DeVos also said she had not visited underperforming schools in her first year on the job. Lawrence said DeVos needs to have some “compassion” for those families without the resources or opportunity to transport or enroll their child in a charter or other alternative school.

“She has validated that she is out of touch. ... Even if she doesn’t understand it because she’s never been in those schools, wouldn’t you take the opportunity to ‘intentionally’ visit those schools? That was what was so heart-breaking and disappointing,” Lawrence told The Detroit News.

“After a year in this job, I don’t see where she moves from here,” she added. “I want her replaced with someone who’s going to be able to comprehend and grasp the immediate need for an investment in all of our children and especially the under-performing schools. Because those are the ones we need to pay attention to.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, meanwhile, defended DeVos on Tuesday, calling her a “great” secretary of education.

“Betsy DeVos is a smart and gifted leader in education. Her critics simply do not want any change in the status quo,” Schuette, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, tweeted.

The tweet did not go over well with DeVos critics such as Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gretchen Whitmer.

“C’mon Bill, even you can’t believe this!” Whitmer tweeted in response.

Mich. districts reassessed

University of Virginia Center for Politics’ latest “Crystal Ball” has shifted ratings for four Republican-held congressional districts in Michigan among 26 House changes in favor of Democrats.

Michigan’s 8th District, held by sophomore GOP Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester, was changed from “likely” to “leans” Republican. This reassessment is because Bishop is likely to face a “credible” challenger in Democrat Elissa Slotkin in what is expected to be a tough environment for Republicans, wrote Kyle Kondik, who studies House races for UVA.

The districts held by GOP Reps. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, Tim Walberg of Tipton and Jack Bergman of Watersmeet went from “safe” to “likely” Republican. Kondik called those seats “deep sleeper Democratic targets.”

“Despite all these changes, we still think the odds of a House flip are only about 50-50, although those odds are probably generous to Republicans at this point. But we’re also cognizant of the fact that there’s still a long way to go,” Kondik wrote.

“And while a Democratic majority is far from certain, the expanding battlefield also illustrates that the Democrats have the potential to not just win the House, but net a significant number of seats beyond the 24 they need if conditions worsen for the Republicans.”

House Dems back Whitmer

The Democratic establishment continued to rally behind Whitmer this week, with all four Michigan Democrats in the U.S. House endorsing her for governor.

Reps. Lawrence, Sander Levin of Royal Oak, Dan Kildee of Flint Township and Debbie Dingell of Dearborn officially backed Whitmer in the Democratic primary.

Dingell, in a statement, said the voters in her district deserve a governor who “will put politics aside” to create jobs, fix roads and lower health care costs.

“When we show up for each other’s fights, we win,” Dingell said. “Gretchen Whitmer has the backbone we need in Lansing, and I’m proud to be in her corner so together we can win back the Michigan we deserve.”

With the April 24 filing deadline fast approaching, the Democratic establishment has begun coalescing around Whitmer. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who had tried to recruit an alternative candidate earlier this year, endorsed her in late February.

The former state Senate Minority Leader from East Lansing is competing for the Democratic nomination with Ann Arbor businessman Shri Thanedar, former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed and retired Xerox executive Bill Cobbs.

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Oosting