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ED Secretary Nominee Narrowly Wins Committee Vote

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) narrowly approved the nomination of Betsy DeVos Tuesday for secretary of the United States Department of Education (ED). The committee voted 12-11 to approve President Donald Trump’s pick to head the ED, splitting along party lines.

The committee actually voted twice, as Democrats called for a procedural move to require another vote and move it to next week. That effort to delay failed.

DeVos has faced opposition from Democrats and others in education for her personal financial investments, some of her comments during confirmation hearings and a perceived lack of experience and knowledge for the job. DeVos is the former head of the American Federation for Children, which supports school vouchers, private education and other forms of school choice. She never attended public school and appeared confused during hearings that there was a federal law covering students with disabilities.

In education technology, one potential conflict of interest is DeVos’ decision to maintain her multi-million-dollar investment in Neurocore, a Michigan-based biofeedback company that aims to help children with ADHD, autism, depression and other afflictions do better in school.

Though DeVos cleared an important procedural hurdle, her confirmation by the full Senate remains an open question, and a date has yet to be set. Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate, compared to 48 held by Democrats. However, even some Republicans have expressed concerns and would not commit to voting for her. If it comes to a tie, Vice President Mike Pence holds a tie-breaking vote.

Several prominent Republicans have voiced support for DeVos, including Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), who chairs the HELP Committee, and former Gov. Jeb Bush, president and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

“Betsy DeVos deserves this vote of confidence and endorsement toward confirmation as the next Secretary of Education,” Bush said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Despite the partisan gamesmanship she endured these past weeks, Betsy remains focused on serving our nation as a true champion of students and parents. I know she will work tirelessly to improve the future of every child, especially those who have been stuck too long in failing schools. Betsy’s long-standing commitment to innovation, choice and accountability create the exact formula needed to empower states and parents to transform education in America.”

Meanwhile, a host of Democrats in the Senate, teachers’ unions and others in education have publicly expressed their opposition to DeVos and her confirmation.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].

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