The Trump transition team has crossed another department position off the list. Donald Trump picked Betsy DeVos for education secretary, according to Bloomberg. DeVos, 58, is a longtime Republican from the state of Michigan, a wealthy businesswoman, and an ardent supporter of charter schools. She previously served as chair of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 through 2000, and her appointment is seen as an indication that the Trump administration will be prioritizing school voucher programs in its education policies.
DeVos got less publicity in the run-up to her selection than some of the other names that were floating around ― in particular former Washington, D.C., public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, and even creationist Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. But in a statement, the Trump transition has confirmed the news, hailing DeVos as "a leader in the national school reform movement." The statement includes a comment from DeVos, accepting the offer and pledging to make "transformational change" in education:
I am honored to accept this responsibility to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again. The status quo in education is not acceptable. Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.
Notably, in addition to her political work, DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, the infamous, scandal-plagued private military contractor that was implicated in some grievous wrongdoing during the Iraq War. Two years ago, four ex-Blackwater guards were convicted and imprisoned for their roles in the slayings of 14 Iraqis in 2007, found guilty on charges of murder and manslaughter.
As for DeVos' education policies, she's widely known as a staunch advocate for a slew of typical conservative positions on education, in particular the spreading of school voucher programs that are viewed as anathema by countless progressives and public schooling advocates, diverting state money into private school scholarships. DeVos is also a Christian, and has reportedly donated money to Christian private schools in the past.
More to the point, she has no experience in public schooling, which combined with her clear conservative orthodoxy on private school vouchers sends a clear signal which direction the Trump administration hopes to take American education. Notably, however, there is one big area where Trump and DeVos diverge, at least based on Trump's past campaign statements ― she's a supporter of the Common Core initiative, while Trump opposed it. In other words, there's something for Trump's base to feel wary about in this, too. DeVos, for her part, denied that she's a supporter of Common Core after news of her appointment broke.