Trump picks charter school advocate Betsy Devos to be education secretary

Donald Trump with Betsy Devos (AP image/Carolyn Kaster)

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen prominent charter school advocate Betsy DeVos as his secretary of education.

The announcement came after he tapped South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

DeVos and Haley are the first women selected for top-level administration posts in his new administration.

Both Cabinet-level positions require Senate confirmation.

While some cheered Haley's selection, despite her limited experience on the international stage, the DeVos choice faced criticism even before it was formally announced on Wednesday afternoon. Conservatives warned that DeVos, a longtime Republican donor, previously supported the Common Core education standards that Trump railed against during the campaign.

Trump called DeVos "a brilliant and passionate education advocate" in a Wednesday statement.

"Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families," the incoming president said.

DeVos, from Michigan, is a longtime advocate for charter schools and school vouchers. She leads the advocacy group, American Federation for Children.

"The status quo in education is not acceptable," she said in a statement Wednesday. "Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential."

The DeVos family has been active in Republican politics for decades, especially as donors to GOP candidates and the Republican Party. DeVos' husband, Dick, is an heir to the Amway fortune and a former president of the company.

The couple gave $22.5 million to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington in 2010, at the time the largest private donation in the center's history.

Hours before the DeVos pick was announced, conservative policy leader Frank Cannon, president of American Principles Project, called her "an establishment, pro-Common Core secretary of education."

"This would not qualify as 'draining the swamp,'" Cannon said, referencing Trump's campaign trail slogan. "And it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point."

Trump is spending Thanksgiving with his family at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
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