Trumps school choice education pick squeaks through committee, may face Senate fight

Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The deeply divided U.S. Senate Education Committee on Tuesday agreed to send to President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to the full chamber for confirmation, but comments ahead of the vote show DeVos faces choppy waters ahead. The committee chairman, Republican Lamar Alexander, acted as the tie-breaker for advancing the nomination to the next and final step of the confirmation process after all 11 Republicans on the panel voted for DeVos and all 11 Democrats voted against her.Democrats could attempt to block the nomination on the Senate floor. Because nominations other than those for the Supreme Court only require a simple majority vote, they will not be able to use a filibuster and would have to convince Republicans to join them in voting against the her confirmation hearings last week, former Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrats’ candidate for vice president in 2000, gave DeVos a laudatory introduction at the hearing, but other party members criticized her. She was opposed by the teachers unions, a major constituency for the party, who said she will undermine public education through her support of public charter schools and other parental choice options.”I have major concerns with how you have spent your career and fortune fighting to privatize public education and gut investments in public schools,” said Washington’s Patty Murray, the committee’s senior Democrat.DeVos reassured committee members that she supports taxpayer-backed education. She also said she will work to give parents choices in the schools their children attend, treat all students equally and respect states’ decisions on education. Committee Republicans universally backed DeVos, applauding her support of vouchers that families may use to pay for private education and of charter schools. They praised her history with The Potter’s House, which provides “Christ-centered” education, and spoke of her dedication to literacy.If nominated, DeVos would head an agency that sets policy for younger children and universities and also administers a college financial aid program of $1 trillion.