(CNSNews.com) - Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's pick for education secretary, smiled politely as liberal senators attacked her for her wealth and called her the wrong person for the job because neither she nor her children ever received a federal student loan to attend college.
But later, when Republican Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) asked DeVos why it's so difficult to focus on student outcomes -- and so easy to get caught up in "process" -- DeVos addressed what she sees as the main impediment to quality education:
"I think that human tendency is to protect and guard what is, because change is difficult, and yet we see the fact that there are millions of students who are simply not getting...an equal opportunity for a quality education,” DeVos said. “And we try to tinker around from the top, and we try to fix things, but it becomes more about the system, I'm afraid, than it does about what's right for each child.”
DeVos thanked Burr for his support and encouragement "around the notion that every child should have the opportunity, every parent should have the opportunity to choose the right educational environment for them.
“And I'm hopeful that if we can continue having a robust conversation about this, that we will talk about the great schools that our children have the opportunity to go to ten years from now, many of which may not even exist today, or look very different than what exists today.
"Because I think the opportunity to innovate in education is virtually unlimited and has been really untested to a large extent."
DeVos, an advocate of school choice and charter schools, said she stands for parents, students, and "for all great schools, no matter their form." (Not for teachers' unions and failing public schools, in other words.)
DeVos noted that the nation’s education delivery system hasn't changed much in a century and a half, and yet the world has changed.
She said teachers, instead of being burdened by rules and regulations, should be "empowered in a new way to do what they do best." She pointed to charter schools that were founded by "teachers who were wanting to express themselves in a different way."
Earlier in the hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren told DeVos that the Education secretary is responsible for managing a trillion dollar student loan bank and distributing $30 billion in Pell grants to students each year.
“Mrs. DeVos, do you have any direct experience in running a bank?” Warren asked DeVos.
“Senator, I do not.”
“Have you ever managed or overseen a trillion dollar loan program?”
“I have not,” DeVos said patiently.
“How about a billion dollar loan program?”
“I have not.”
Warren said it’s important for the person who is in charge of r financial aid programs “to understand what it’s like for students and their families who are struggling to pay for college.”
Warren continued: “Mrs. DeVos, have you ever taken out a student loan from the federal government to help pay for college?”
“I have not.”
"Have any of your children had to borrow money in order to go to college?"
"They have been fortunate not to.”
DeVos also said she has had no personal experience with Pell grants, but she’s seen friends and students go through the process.
Earlier, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he didn’t mean to be rude, but he asked DeVos, “Do you think if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party that you would be sitting here today?”
“Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility,” DeVos responded. She said she’s worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last 30 years to give them choices -- "primarily low-income children."