The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s education secretary on Tuesday, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote and putting a pro-privatization plutocrat in charge of the nation’s public school system. The move concluded a contentious campaign over DeVos’s nomination, which drew widespread grassroots opposition from parents, students, and teachers, and prompted two Republican senators—Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski—to break with their party and vote no. Senate Democrats ultimately couldn’t scuttle DeVos’s nomination, but their all-night talkathon Monday and Tuesday left no ambiguity about where they stood.
With the possible exception of Senator Jeff Sessions, the attorney general nominee, DeVos proved the most contentious of Trump’s cabinet picks. As a billionaire conservative philanthropist, DeVos bankrolled damaging “school choice” policies that have failed in her home state of Michigan and across the country. She’s a crusader for school vouchers, which divert taxpayer dollars away from public education to fund private (and often religious) schools without providing poor students with the opportunity they promise. She also backs unregulated, unaccountable charter schools—including for-profit ones—which is why leading charter advocates opposed her nomination.
DeVos will be a disaster for students with disabilities and, as demonstrated by her confirmation hearing, she lacks a basic understanding of key education policy debates. Most fundamentally, DeVos is the perfect symbol of our new government by billionaires, putting private profits over public good. DeVos’s opponents are vowing to fight on against her policies and the politicians who support them, but as Tuesday proved, there’s only so much they can do.