School choice advocate and Republican megadonor Betsy DeVos has been selected to head up the Department of Education by President-elect Donald Trump. His transition team announced the move Wednesday.
"Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate," Trump said in a 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."
Choosing DeVos, 58, falls in line with Trump's promise to expand school choice options. She has long pushed for voucher programs that allow low-income families to use public funds to pay for charter or private schools. DeVos also chairs the American Federation for Children, which pushes for more school choice options.
Teacher unions are staunchly against choice options like the voucher program, saying it is anti-public school and damaging to poorer kids. The National Education Association was quick to condemn Trump's choice.
"We have, and will continue, to fight for all students to have a great public school in their community and the opportunity to succeed no matter their backgrounds or circumstances," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García in a statement. "Betsy DeVos has consistently worked against these values, and her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps."
DeVos is part of a family of influential establishment Republican donors and once served as the head of the Michigan Republican Party. During the election cycle, DeVos twice declined to support Trump's candidacy. Her husband, Dick DeVos, failed in attempt to win the governorship in Michigan, and is the former president of Amway and the NBA's Orlando Magic.
Trump might disagree slightly with DeVos on Common Core, an education reform movement that seeks to standardize educational requirements. He regularly railed against the standards, while DeVos served on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which pushed for both school choice and Common Core. The group was headed by Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Trump's former GOP primary opponent.
Not long after her appointment was announced, DeVos tweeted to clarify she did not support Common Core. She posted a link to her website clarifying that while groups she worked with may have backed the standards, she did not and that Common Core "turned into a federalized boondoggle."
The announcement from Trump's transition team did not bring up the Common Core standards, but did claim big changes were on the way. "The status quo in education is not acceptable," DeVos said in a statement. "Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential."