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Trump Administration 'Very Confident' DeVos Will Be Confirmed as Secretary of Education

Trump Administration 'Very Confident' DeVos Will Be Confirmed as Secretary of Education

Despite at least two Republican senators saying they will vote against President Trump's pick for secretary of education this week, the Trump administration said this weekend that it is nonetheless "very confident" Betsy DeVos will be confirmed for the role; Vice President Michael Pence said he is prepared to be the tie-breaking vote.

Though Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both voted for DeVos to face a full senate vote during last week's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee meeting, they revealed just a day later that they will not be voting to confirm her. They both cited concerns that DeVos' lack of experience makes her unqualified to handle the role as well as said they had received a flood of concerns from their constituents.

If Murkowski and Collins are the only Republicans who oppose DeVos' nomination along with all Democrats, the vote would be a 50-50 tie that Vice President Pence will use his vote to break.

DeVos has been a particularly polarizing nominee because of her decades-long support for controversial school reform ideals, her billionaire ties and her lack of experience working in and dealing with public education. Many who oppose her fear that she will use her position of power to irreparably harm public education.

Opposition against DeVos only escalated after a rocky three-hour long confirmation hearing. The HELP committee's Democrats, upset that they were denied the opportunity to ask DeVos more questions about her knowledge and intentions, used the time they did have to ask hard-hitting questions that DeVos seemed unprepared to answer. She appeared unfamiliar with the growth versus proficiency debate, seemingly misunderstood that IDEA is a federal law and made a bizarre comment about rural schools needing guns for protection against wild animals, specifically "grizzlies".

Since the hearing, opponents of DeVos' nomination have come out in droves to attempt to sway senators from casting a vote in her favor. Connecticut senator Chris Murphy said last week he received over 11,000 phone calls from state residents to oppose her.

Supporters, on the other hand, argue that DeVos is a great choice for the role regardless of her unique background. HELP chairman Lamar Alexander has argued that DeVos has dedicated her entire life to help educate America's children and that she should not be opposed for her wealth but rather praised for using it to help low-income children succeed.

Former presidential candidate and long-time education advocate Jeb Bush has worked closely with DeVos for many years; following word of her nomination, he called her an "extraordinary choice".

Until DeVos is confirmed, the Department of Education is being managed by acting Education Secretary Phil Rosenfelt.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

2/6/2017

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