WASHINGTON (CBS4) – President Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary was sworn into office on Tuesday, but it came with a lot of drama.
A bitter battle over the nomination of Betsy DeVos ended with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote.
It’s the first time a vice president has had to break a tie on a cabinet nomination. DeVos will hold one of the least powerful cabinet positions but her nomination has been one of the most contentious.
Two Republicans joined Democrats in opposing DeVos’ confirmation.
Among those voting for DeVos was Colorado’s Republican Sen. Cory Gardner who came under heavy pressure to reject DeVos.
“When I had the opportunity to meet Betsy DeVos personally, she pledged to me that she would be an advocate for public schools, teachers, and educational opportunities for all,” Gardner said.
But Democrats, including Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, blasted DeVos’ lack of public school experience.
“Even with the limited questioning allowed at the Education Committee hearing it quickly became clear that Mrs. DeVos lacks the experience and the understanding to be an effective secretary of education,” Bennet said.
Maybe most controversial is DeVos’ support of vouchers for private schools. In Colorado, they’re unconstitutional.
DeVos also has little power when it comes to education policy in Colorado because it’s primarily set by the state. But she does have discretion in the enforcement of protections for special needs students, and in how federal funds are doled out.
The president has promised to redirect $20 billion to expand charter schools, and that represents nearly half of the Department of Education’s budget.
School choice is also backed by Republicans at the Colorado state Capitol. A bill passed a Senate committee on Tuesday allowing parents to apply for tax credits if their children attend private schools.
Another bill in committee Thursday aims to make funding more equitable for charter schools — and it has a Democratic cosponsor as well.