Betsy DeVos confirmed as next secretary of education
- In a 51-50 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie.
- The Michigan billionaire's nomination for the role was highly controversial due to her lack of experience working in the public school system, her opposition to charter school regulation, and her advocacy of voucher programs in multiple states, leading to concerns around public school privatization.
- Though Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined Democrats in voting against DeVos, a 24-hour debate and record numbers of calls were unable to sway another member of the GOP.
Aside from her background, she also faced criticism during her confirmation hearings for an apparent lack of understanding regarding student protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as well as mentioning grizzly bears in her defense of guns in schools. Constituents had also flooded Congressional phone lines with a record number of calls to petition against her confirmation.
In a Senate where Democrats were outnumbered 52 to 48 and nominees needed only a simple majority, however, the efforts to block any of the new administration's nominees were always most likely to fall short.
It's also worth considering that under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the influence of the U.S. secretary of education is limited given the law's focus on giving decision-making power back to states. How much DeVos would be able to accomplish under that law is still a matter of debate.
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