Donald Trump has nominated Republican megadonor Betsy DeVos as his education secretary, in a move that is likely to appease mainstream Republicans but will also upset some of his most passionate supporters, who are deeply opposed to the Common Core education initiative that DeVos once supported.
DeVos is well-connected in Washington and on Capitol Hill, where she aligns closely with Senator Lamar Alexander, a top-ranking Republican who chairs the senate committee on education and called DeVos an "excellent" choice for education chief. She is likely to support aggressive school choice measures, which funnel public education dollars to places like charter and private schools, including religious schools.
Trump called DeVos a "brilliant and passionate education advocate” in a statement announcing her selection. “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back," he said.
While DeVos is well-connected on Capitol Hill and esteemed by many Republican politicians, a number of conservative websites and activist parent organizations have already denounced her because of her position on the Common Core.
DeVos said on Twitter Wednesday that she was "not a supporter" of the Common Core, saying it had turned into a "federalized boondoggle." But she previously supported the standards and sits on the board of several organizations that support the national education standards, including the Jeb Bush-backed Foundation For Excellence in Education. Bush, who is deeply unpopular among many Trump supporters, released a statement calling DeVos an "outstanding" choice.
"I cannot think of a more effective and passionate change agent to press for a new education vision," Bush said.
"If Trump wants to increase school choice and be known as a president who dramatically improved education options for kids, he needs to send DeVos packing," wrote Joy Pullman, managing editor of conservative site The Federalist, in response to BuzzFeed News reporting on Monday that DeVos was a leading contender for the post.
Pullman said she would "now commit seppuku" as DeVos emerged as the most likely pick.
DeVos has long been an active player in Republican politics, in large part thanks to deep pockets that have enabled her to act as a leading donor to conservative causes. Her husband Dick DeVos is an heir to the fortune of the multilevel marketing company Amway and member of a prominent family of conservative donors. DeVos' brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the private mercenary business that rose to infamy during the Iraq War.
DeVos was quickly denounced by teacher's unions and other left-leaning groups. In a statement, the National Education Association, the country's largest teacher's union, painted DeVos as an opponent of public education who "has lobbied for failed schemes like vouchers."
On Twitter, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton, wrote, "Trump has chosen the most ideological, anti-public ed nominee since the creation of the Department of Education."
Betsy DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, an heir to the Amway fortune. A previous version of the article said her husband's name was Jim.
Molly Hensley-Clancy is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. She covers the intersection of business and education.
Contact Molly Hensley-Clancy at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.