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By Miriam Raftery

February 7, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – For the first time in history, the Vice President had to cast the deciding vote on a cabinet nominee.  Betsy DeVos was confirmed 51-50 as Secretary of Education, with all Democrats voting no, along with two Republicans (Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska). 

Trump tweeted before Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote, “"Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!"

DeVos, a billionaire heiress to the Amway fortune, has drawn criticism for her support of vouchers, for-profit charters and use of taxpayer funds to allow students to attend private religious schools.  In Detroit, her reform program has been a failure according to objective studies, resulting in no significant improvements in test scores but did increase racial segregation of public schools, the Washington  Post reported.

In addition, 80% of Michigan’s charter schools are now for-profit private schools, raises serious questions about affordability for low income and middle class Americans.

DeVos has no background as an educator and has not attended public schools, nor sent her children through the public school system.   A deeply religious Christian, she has pushed for stronger ties between churches and schools, along with her husband, Dick Devos.

At her confirmation hearing, she refused to affirm that she would support enforcement of federal laws protecting disabled students and female students from sexual assaults.

Of the 50 Republicans who voted for DeVos, at least 21 had taken hefty campaign contributions from her, ranging from $8,000 to $101,000, FCC records reveal. 

Even some critics of DeVos, however, voiced cautious hope that despite her troubling track record, she might bring some relief to local districts. 

Politico reports that Julie Matuzak, the DeVoses’ foe from the 2000 voucher fight, disagrees strongly with DeVos’ appointment but concedes the couple has good intentions. “I do believe they have a deep-seated belief in quality education for all children,” says Matuzak. “They see it as a continuum of public education that includes everything—private schools, parochial schools, charters, public schools. But they believe in the market force as the rule of the universe.”