On Tuesday February 7, 2017, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education. Pence’s vote which broke the 50/50 tie in the Senate marks the first time in US history that the Vice President was called upon to serve as the deciding vote for a Senate vote on a cabinet level confirmation. The historic participation of Vice President Pence became necessary when two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), communicated that they would be voting against the nominee. DeVos’s confirmation came on the heels of the Democrats staging an all night session to strategize how to derail her confirmation.
From the onset Ms. DeVos’s nomination has received a lot of negative feedback. Democrats have tried to portray her as fundamentally opposed to public education. Critics have highlighted her lack of personal experience with public education, pointing out that she has never been employed as a public school educator, nor served as volunteer with a public school nor sent her children to a public school. Shortly after her nomination was announced in November, Randi Weingarten, The President of the American Federation of Teachers released the following statement. “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.”
DeVos’s personal wealth has also added to the controversy. Democrats have expressed concerns that she has not fully disclosed her financial situation including potential conflicts of interest. DeVos is known as a highly effective Republican fundraiser who has raised over $200 million for Republican candidates and causes. DeVos, who has been described as a billionaire, comes from a wealthy family and her husband Dick is the heir to the Amway fortune.
DeVos also came under fire for her performance during the Senate hearings. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) who served as Hillary Clinton’s Vice Presidential running mate claimed that DeVos did not understand the requirements of the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) who is also a former educator was very vocal about her opposition to DeVos, citing her lack of understanding and support for public education. She also questioned the hearing process itself claiming that limiting each senator to 5 minute interviews was inadequate to the process. A number of senators claimed that they had received significant negative feedback from their constituents regarding DeVos’s candidacy.
Supporters for DeVos highlight her track record for expanding school choice within the state of Michigan by increasing low income family access to high performing public charter schools and by also expanding the distribution of vouchers that students can use to attend parochial, private and for profit schools. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) described DeVos as “being at the forefront of education reform for decades.” He also said that she “led the most effective public school reform movement over the last few years.”
DeVos’s background will dovetail well with President Trump’s campaign promise of implementing a $20 billion voucher program aimed at low income children.
Betsy DeVos represents yet another example of President Trump’s refusal to accept the status quo with any department. The left’s incredible opposition to DeVos is also indicative of their unwillingness to accept the concept of “reform” and their proclivity for fear peddling. President Trump never said that he was eliminating public education. Rather he campaigned on a platform to create equal educational opportunities for all children.
No child should ever be limited by his geography or his parents’s income.
Leonora Cravotta is the Program & Talent Director for Red State Talk Radio, the Co-Host for the Scott Adams Show, a political radio talk show, and a syndicated writer for conservative publications.