The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 as Education Secretary. This approval on the controversial nominee was pushed by a historic tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
The 51-to-50 vote elevates Ms. DeVos — a wealthy donor from Michigan who has devoted much of her life to expanding educational choice through charter schools and vouchers, but has limited experience with the public school system — to be steward of the nation’s schools. The autism community in specific has a large concern around this appointment, as DeVos has little experience in working with the special education community and lacks the knowledge to help support our community.
According to the New York Times, two Republicans voted against DeVos’s appointment, “a sign that some members of President Trump’s party are willing to go against him, possibly foreshadowing difficulty on some of the president’s more contentious legislative priorities.”
It was the first time that a vice president has been brought to the Capitol to break a tie on a cabinet nomination. In back-to-back floor speeches on February 6, 2017, lawmakers said DeVos was unqualified because of a lack of familiarity with public schools and with laws meant to protect students, despite her passion for helping them.
DeVos has focused on expanding parental choice in education and embracing charter schools, but also on vouchers that can allow students to use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private, religious and for-profit schools. Moving forward, our community can take action to ensure that the special education communities of public schools are protected.