The Senate Has Spoken: DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary
As expected, the U.S. Senate today confirmed the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos as secretary of education in the Trump administration. The nomination, by a 51-50 vote, won approval with a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
DeVos had been the target of massive opposition by Democrats and educators, who contended she lacks experience with public education. She has been a proponent of charter schools and vouchers, particularly in her home state of Michigan.
Democrats voted unanimously to reject DeVos and were joined by Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, necessitating Pence’s vote. Other Republicans said the campaign against her was inspired because she was appointed by a Republican president.
President Trump’s views on higher education were largely missing from his campaign, though he did at some points advocate a $20 billion voucher initiative for low-income students. Vouchers, backed by tax dollars, allow students to pay tuition at private, religious and for-profit schools.
The background on DeVos
DeVos is known as a prolific GOP fundraiser; she has donated about $200 million to Republican candidates and causes. Her husband, Dick, is heir to the Amway fortune.
She received criticism during her confirmation hearings, particularly for a couple of exchanges:
- DeVos hedged when asked whether all schools that receive public money should be required to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Act, saying the issue was “best left to the states.”
- She gave a similar answer about leaving decisions to the states when asked whether some schools need weapons, saying that institutions in Wyoming might need guns “to protect from potential grizzlies.”
Among the critics was The New York Times, which noted that she admitted having no experience with student loans and would have to review Department of Education policies governing fraud by for-profit colleges.