UNC system president backs Trumps nominee for Education secretary

Democrats have been critical of businesswoman Betsy DeVos credentials

YURI GRIPAS—Reuters
Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health

RALEIGH — Margaret Spellings, the University of North Carolina system president and former education secretary under former President George W. Bush, has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Education, Michigan businesswoman Betsy DeVos.”I’ve advised her to get out about the country and learn and listen,” Spelling said Wednesday on CBS This Morning. “You know, any of us who take these big jobs in Washington know that you don’t know everything there is to know about the the department until you get in there.”DeVos has faced criticism from Democrats who say her inexperience in the public realm and the fact neither she nor her children attended public schools make her unqualified for the position.Spellings disagrees, saying DeVos’ years of advocating for school choice should prepare her for the role if she assembles an experienced staff around her.”I think her record is over the many decades that she is involved on the battlefield fighting for school reform, fighting for opportunity for students in Michigan and around the country,” Spellings said.Spellings told CBS This Morning that the focus of the secretary should be on the students, not the other aspects of education.”I think often the interests of adults are put before the interests of students,” Spellings said. “That’s why I’m so encouraged by Betsy’s commitment, really, to a student-centered approach.”You know, we talk a lot about pay and benefits and tenure and all those things that are really adult issues, and [we] often lose sight of some of those student issues.”DeVos’ nomination was advanced Tuesday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and she now faces confirmation by the full Senate. With Republicans holding a 52-48 advantage, DeVos is expected to be confirmed, but some GOP senators have wavered on voting yes for her.The Senate has confirmed six of Trump’s cabinet nominees — most recently Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by a 56-43 vote on Wednesday — with relative ease, but the vote on DeVos is likely to be the tightest of those to reach the Senate floor thus far.It is expected all 48 Democrats in the Senate will vote against her, and two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — announced they would also vote “no.” Still, opponents of DeVos would need another Republican vote to block her confirmation, since Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tiebreaking vote in the event of a 50-50 result.