WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Controversy lingers over the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education. After a rocky confirmation hearing, questions arose surrounding her qualifications for the position. This lead citizens across the country to contact their Senators about the confirmation vote. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) says he listened to concerns, and went with what he considered to be the best decision.
Senator Roberts (R-KS) says a private meeting with Secretary DeVos convinced him to support her confirmation.
"I was convinced that that was the right vote," said Roberts, who gave her a "yes" vote.
Despite thousands of calls from his constituents pleading for the opposite, Roberts says the new Secretary of Education swayed him in a private meeting.
"She convinced me that most of these concerns just didn’t add up with regards to the kind of person that she is," said Roberts.
Roberts says his office received so many calls that he answered the phones himself. He says he listened to their problems with the nominee, compiled notes, and addressed them.
"There was concern about public education and special (education) primarily, so that’s what I called her back in to talk about," said Roberts. "I thought it was a pretty good exercise in democracy."
Some folks in Kansas are not buying what the Senator is selling. They say he ignored their calls, would not take meetings, and eventually voted based on his party’s agenda.
"They ignored 100,000 or more Kansas voters or more who tried to contact them," said Marcus Baltzell, the Director of Communications for the Kansas National Education Association. "And now this appointment, this confirmation, of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is their legacy."
Baltzell says his organization tracked phone calls that went unanswered by the Senator, and wonders why Roberts had time for Secretary DeVos and not constituents.
"We’ve proven that we won’t tolerate people coming in and completely undermining our public schools," said Baltzell. "And that will be their legacy. Their legacy is that they ignored Kansas voters. We have the proof of that."
Roberts says he is always willing to meet in person with constituents. Baltzell says he hasn’t seen any evidence to support this.
Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) also voted in support of DeVos. Baltzell says there have also been complaints about his lack of response.