Murray cribs DeVos question from education group

Story highlights

  • Question 29 of Murray's 139 questions deals with personnel shortages in special education
  • Murray's office acknowledges the question should have been cited

Washington (CNN)Sen. Patty Murray, who earlier this week raised plagiarism questions about President Donald Trump's pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, appears to have pulled one of her written questions for the nominee from an industry group fact sheet.

Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the Washington Democrat, said Tuesday that staffers solicited "questions and ideas from advocates and education groups" but "did not include proper citation to their original source."
Question 29 of Murray's 139 questions deals with personnel shortages in special education. The question is 97% similar, according to a plagiarism program, to a 2014 fact sheet distributed by the National Coalition on Personnel Shortage in Special Education on the issue.
    Here is Murray's lengthy question:
    "Personnel shortages in special education are the result of recruitment and retention challenges. There is both a shortage of professional to fill available positions and a shortage of positions to meet the growing demand for services for America's 6 million children and youth with disabilities who receive special education services. Shortages of fully certified personnel and unfunded positions impede the ability of students with disabilities to reach their full academic potential and hinder work of districts to prepare all students to be college and career-ready.
    "The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future estimates that the national cost of public school teacher turnover could be over $7.3 billion a year. As a result of high turnover, high-need urban and rural schools are frequently staffed with inequitable concentrations of under-prepared, inexperienced teachers. The constant retraining of new staff means that high-needs schools can neither close the teacher quality staff nor the student achievement gaps."
    Both passages are almost entirely featured in the National Coalition on Personnel Shortage in Special Education fact sheet:
    "Personnel shortages in special education specialized instructional support services are the result of recruitment and retention challenges. There is both a shortage of professionals to fill available positions and a shortage of positions to meet the growing demand for services for America's 6 million children and youth with disabilities who receive special education services."
    "Shortages of fully certified personnel and unfunded positions impede the ability of students with disabilities to reach their full academic potential and hinder the work of districts to prepare all students to be college and career‐ready. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future estimates that the national cost of public school teacher turnover could be over $7.3 billion a year. As a result of high turnover, high‐ need urban and rural schools are frequently staffed with inequitable concentrations of under‐prepared, inexperienced teachers and few, if any, specialized instructional support personnel. The constant retraining of new staff means that high‐needs schools can neither close the teacher quality staff nor the student achievement gaps."
    CNN and The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that DeVos, who was approved by Murray's committee earlier in the day, had lifted quotes in at least two instances in written answers submitted to the Senate.
    In response to one of Murray's questions, DeVos almost directly quoted Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of Obama's Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department -- without citing the Obama administration official.
    "Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment where they can learn, thrive, and grow," DeVos writes.
    Gupta was credited with nearly the same quotes in a May 2016 press release on ensuring the civil rights of transgender students.
    "Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment that allows them to thrive and grow," Gupta wrote.
    There are differences between what Murray and DeVos did, however. DeVos was representing her personal view, while Murray was asking a question of a nominee -- and it is common practice for senators to field questions and input from constituents and interest groups.
    But, as Murray's office acknowledges, the question should have been cited.
    "Senator Murray and Committee staff work closely with constituents and education advocates to make sure that the people she represents have a voice in this process and have their questions and concerns addressed by the nominees," Zupnick writes. "As questions and ideas from advocates and education groups were pulled in by staff for the written questions for the record, a number of lines were included in the final product that did not include proper citation to their original source."