North Carolina’s two Republican U.S. senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, voted Tuesday to confirm President Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of the Department of Education.
The Senate vote – which was 50-50 and required a tie-breaker vote from Vice President Mike Pence – followed weeks of debate over DeVos’ qualifications and her support of public charter schools and school choice programs, such as taxpayer-subsidized vouchers for private school tuition. Both Burr’s and Tillis’ offices had been inundated with calls asking them to vote against DeVos.
Still, others say DeVos will be good for education policy.
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Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said the divide between parents and educators over DeVos’ nomination wasn’t surprising. DeVos and Trump’s new administration, he said, represent a “paradigm shift” that he believes will result in positive, widespread changes in both public and private education systems.
Allison said he supported DeVos because she would bring nontraditional ideas to the table and she embraced school choice for parents.
He’s also in favor of reducing some mandates on traditional public schools so that teachers have greater flexibility in the classroom to control curriculum pace and help students who are falling behind, he said. A better policy environment for nontraditional schools, he said, shouldn’t come at the expense of well-performing public schools.
DeVos’ critics, though, say they’re worried she’ll push for federal officials to give up too much control to local districts and states on enforcing nondiscrimination and civil rights protections in school. Matt Ellinwood with the North Carolina Justice Center says his group initially was not going to take a position on Trump’s education secretary nominee but came out against DeVos after her Senate hearing.
Ellinwood says DeVos seems to favor less transparency and fewer regulations on public charter schools, which could make it harder for states like North Carolina to close facilities with poor financial or academic performance.