By Elizabeth White
After a close vote, the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary on Feb. 7, according to an article in NPR.
Fifty out of fifty-two Republican senators voted for DeVos. Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against DeVos, along with all forty six Democrats and two Independents.
Since the vote came up a tie, Vice President Pence’s vote was the tiebreaker; he voted for DeVos.
“Betsy DeVos will have great impact as Secretary of Education. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a public school, a private school, a parochial school, a charter school, or any other kind of school – she will help ensure that every student has access to a good school,” Pence said in a statement posted on The White House’s website.
This was the first time in history that the vice president’s constitutional power of tie breaking was used to confirm a president’s nominee to the cabinet, according to an article in NPR.
Many are wondering how much will change for students after her appointment.
A poll run by The Baltimore Sun asking “Are you concerned that Betsy DeVos will damage public education in America?” shows that 55% of the people polled believed that she will damage public education.
When asked by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders about the amount of money her family donated to the Republican Party, Devos could not provide an actual amount, and was “noncommittal on her family’s record of political donations,” according to the video “6 head-scratching moments from Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing” by the Washington Post.
“Devos dismissed IRS filings that list her as vice president of her mother’s foundation as a ‘clerical error,” the Washington Post video also stated.
When asked if guns belong in schools, Devos responded that that decision is ultimately up to the states, but that they would help protect against grizzly bears, according to the video by The Washington Post.
DeVos, on the subject of free tuition during her confirmation hearing, said that “There’s nothing in life that’s truly free,” according to an article in NPR.
“We’ll likely be hearing more about the benefits of private, virtual, religious and for-profit schools,” Anya Kamenetz, a writer for NPR, said. DeVos backed school reforms in her home state of Michigan that were in support of for-profit charter school operators, according to an article in NPR.
She also chaired the American Federation for Children, which “favors both vouchers and a device called ‘tax credit scholarships,’ which allows companies to offset tax liability by funding students to attend private schools,” Kamenetz said about DeVos.
The week before DeVos’ confirmation Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of two Republicans previously mentioned that opposed the nomination of DeVos, released a statement about her opposition.
“I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved in one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and also what is broken and how to fix them,” Murkowski said.