SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten was grilled by Senate committee members Wednesday morning — and grilled by proxy by protesters here in San Diego at the district's headquarters.
A small protest was held, including members of the National Action Network and the National Parents Union, where organizers said they feel Marten is unqualified for the job, calling out her track record, which they claim highlights racial education gaps and disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for black male students during her tenure.
"I find it very hard to believe that she can be the competent person to lead across the country when she's not done a sufficient job here in San Diego," said Reverend Jonathan Moseley of the NAN.
This was happening as Dr. Marten faced questions from the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee. Some members praised her lengthy K-12 experience, in the classroom and as an administrator, as others questioned her readiness to act as Deputy Secretary of Education — essentially COO of a department with a $73.5 billion annual budget and a $1.6 trillion student loan portfolio.
Some of the topics of questioning from Senators like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins included school reopenings, student homelessness, teacher shortages, and school achievement gaps.
Senator Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, asked Marten if she believed the Department of Education could forgive student loan debt without congressional approval, a question she essentially declined to answer.
"That sounds a little bit like a rehearsed answer," Cassidy said, laughing. "In fact, it sounds entirely like you were prepped for that. I guess what I want is the unprepped answer."
The vote on Marten's confirmation hasn't happened yet, though it has gained national attention given the importance of education, especially during the pandemic.