In a historically close vote, the U.S. Senate has approved the nomination of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.
The Tuesday vote of 100 senators deadlocked 50 to 50—all 48 Democrats and two Republican voted against DeVos. For the first time in history, the vice president had to cast a tie-breaking vote to approve the nomination of a cabinet appointment.
DeVos, 59, a prominent advocate for charter schools and parental choice, faced strong opposition for those positions.
In nominating DeVos, President Donald Trump said DeVos has spent decades advocating for school choice reforms and helping underserved children gain access to a quality education. She is chairman of the American Federation for Children, whose mission is to “improve our nation’s K-12 education by advancing systemic and sustainable public policy that empowers parents, particularly those in low-income families, to choose the education they determine is best for their children.”
Democrats, teachers’ unions and others expressed concern about the DeVos family’s contributions to groups that support so-called conversion therapy for gay people; her donations to Republicans and their causes, which she said have totaled about $200 million over the years; and her past statements that government “sucks” and that public schools are a “dead end.”
Opponents also argued that her answers during confirmation hearings showed a lack of basic knowledge about educational issues.
DeVos has no previous experience as a teacher or administrator.