Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary

February 7, 2017 Updated: February 7, 2017
FONT BFONT SText size

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as Education secretary by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote.

Two Republicans joined Democrats in an unsuccessful effort to derail the nomination of the wealthy Republican donor. The Senate historian said Pence’s vote was the first by a vice president to break a tie on a Cabinet nomination.

Democrats claimed she had a lack of public school experience and had financial interests in organizations pushing charter schools. DeVos has said she would divest herself from those organizations.

DeVos, from Michigan, will be taking over the leadership and management of a federal bureaucracy with some 4,400 employees and a $68 billion annual budget, NPR noted.

But President Donald Trump remained uncompromising and accused Democrats of seeking to torpedo education progress. In a tweet before the vote, he wrote “Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said DeVos will seek to empower states, not federal bureaucrats, to make important education decisions.

“I know that she is committed to improving our education system so that every child—every child—has a brighter future,” McConnell said ahead of the vote.

And Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee who is a former education secretary, slammed his Democratic colleagues for opposing her.

“She led the most effective public school reform movement over the last few years,” he said, as the New York Times reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.