Trump Taps Charter-School Backer DeVos as Secretary of Education

The Department of Education building in Washington, D.C.
The Department of Education building in Washington, D.C.

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - President-elect Donald Trump has chosen prominent charter-school advocate Betsy DeVos as his secretary of education.

The position requires Senate confirmation.

The DeVos choice faced criticism even before it was formally announced on Wednesday afternoon. Conservatives warned that DeVos, a longtime Republican donor, previously supported the Common Core education standards that Trump railed against during the campaign.

Trump called DeVos “a brilliant and passionate education advocate” in a Wednesday statement.

“Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families,” the incoming president said.

DeVos, from Michigan, is a longtime advocate for charter schools and school vouchers. She leads the advocacy group, American Federation for Children.

“The status quo in education is not acceptable,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”

The DeVos family has been active in Republican politics for decades, especially as donors to GOP candidates and the Republican Party. DeVos’ husband, Dick, is an heir to the Amway fortune and a former president of the company.

The couple gave $22.5 million to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington in 2010, at the time the largest private donation in the center’s history.

Hours before the DeVos pick was announced, conservative policy leader Frank Cannon, president of American Principles Project, called her “an establishment, pro-Common Core secretary of education.”

“This would not qualify as ‘draining the swamp,'” Cannon said, referencing Trump’s campaign trail slogan. “And it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point.”

During the campaign, DeVos was slow to warm to Trump.

She told The Associated Press in July, “A lot of the things he has said are very off-putting and concerning.”