Senate confirms Betsy DeVos as education secretary

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2017 file photo, Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The Senate was poised on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, to confirm Devos by the narrowest possible margin, with Vice President Mike Pence expected to break a 50-50 tie, despite a last-ditch effort by Democrats to sink the nomination. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed school choice activist Betsy DeVos as Education secretary, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.

The Senate historian says it was the first time a vice president had to break a tie on a Cabinet nomination.

Two Republicans joined Democrats Tuesday to vote to derail DeVos’ nomination. Democrats cited her lack of public school experience and financial interests in organizations pushing charter schools. DeVos has said she would divest herself from those organizations.

Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska fear that DeVos’ focus on charter schools will undermine remote public schools in their states.

In an earlier tweet, President Donald Trump wrote “Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!”

DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor and longtime school choice advocate, has emerged as one of Trump’s most controversial Cabinet picks. Labor unions have bitterly contested DeVos’ nomination, fearing that she will undermine public education by promoting charter schools and publicly funded voucher programs for private schools.

Trump stood behind his nominee, accusing Democrats of fighting progress and change.

“Senate Dems protest to keep the failed status quo,” Trump tweeted Tuesday before the vote. “Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!”

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