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DeVos confirmed as Secretary of Education in 51-50 vote

Michele Cox from Newton Grove, NC stands in front of the Federal Courthouse Building to ask Senator Tillis to vote no to Betsy DeVos.
Michele Cox from Newton Grove, NC stands in front of the Federal Courthouse Building to ask Senator Tillis to vote no to Betsy DeVos.

No Democrat voted for DeVos, and only two Republicans voted against her — leaving the Senate vote 50-50. Vice President Mike Pence confirmed DeVos with a tie-breaking vote.

DeVos, a school-choice advocate and prominent Republican donor, was praised by conservatives.

“Today’s vote to confirm Education Secretary
@BetsyDeVos was a vote for every child having a chance at a world-class education,” Pence said on Twitter.

Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., both voted to confirm DeVos.

“Betsy DeVos has dedicated her life to improving education, so I am glad she will continue to fight for all children as Secretary of Education,” Burr said in a statement yesterday.

UNC-system President Margaret Spellings, a former U.S. Secretary of Education, defended DeVos last week and said she was advising her.

“I expect that she’ll be an honest broker and a great leader for all of our schools,” Spellings said on CBS.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voiced concerns that DeVos was not knowledgable on proficiency and growth policies, federal enforcement of civil rights laws and college affordability — calling her unqualified and divisive.

N.C. Democratic Party chairperson Patsy Keever, a former teacher, said in a statement that DeVos is the wrong person to lead the Department of Education.

“DeVos has spent her career attacking public education, and her confirmation hearings raised serious questions about her fitness to be Secretary,” she said in a statement.

The state Democratic Party disparaged Burr for voting to confirm DeVos, whose family donated over $43,000 to Burr’s campaign in 2016.

“ ... He’s rewarding a billionaire donor with a plum job in the Cabinet,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said in a statement.

Terry Stoops, director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, said he appreciates DeVos’ commitment to education options for families and the elimination of federal education regulations.

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“If she continues to advance these core principles and Congress is receptive to them, then North Carolina families, schools and districts will have much greater say in the education of children under their care,” he said in an email.

But Matt Ellinwood, executive director of the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, said DeVos’ limited understanding of public education is a red flag that could have a significant impact on state schools.

He said legislators need to commit to the public education system, as opposed to designing and funding alternatives like charter schools.

“I think we’re going to have a situation where the support for our public schools is going to erode even further at a time where it can’t, where we’re really low on measures of teacher pay and per-people spending,” he said.