Senate confirms Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education


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The Senate voted Feb. 7 to confirm Trump’s education nominee, Betsy DeVos, as secretary of education, making her the highest-ranking official in the American education system.

by Michael Sikand and Rose Guan

Michigan billionaire DeVos, 59, was the first cabinet nominee in U.S. history to require a tie-breaking vote by the vice president. Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, did not vote in support of DeVos, citing her lack of experience in the public education system as the main factor. Every Democratic senator also opposed DeVos’s confirmation, which resulted in the initial 50-50 tie.

DeVos now stands to lead the U.S. Department of Education, a massive federal bureaucracy with a near-$70 billion annual budget and over 4,400 government employees.

Trump nominated DeVos, an advocate for school choice and voucher programs, for the education post on Nov. 23, and the Senate voted to advance her to the final confirmation voting last Friday.

Since her nomination, she has received bipartisan criticism as well as praise, which made the status of her confirmation uncertain.

Much of the disapproval came from reactions to DeVos’s first confirmation hearing, where she expressed confusion about the status of key school laws, spoke of guns in public schools as a means of defense against grizzly bears and repeatedly emphasized her primary focus on voucher systems.

“It’s not entirely clear what exactly [DeVos] is going to do,” English teacher Ohad Paran, who taught at public schools in Gilroy and San Diego. “[She is] somebody with zero experience working in a public school setting and understanding the dynamics of a public school setting, somebody who is not a local politician such as a school board member or a mayor of a city that understands the demographics involved in running schools.”

Another of Trump’s cabinet picks, Jeff Sessions, was confirmed the following day, Feb. 8, as attorney general.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on February 21, 2017.