What Makes Betsy DeVos Such an Unusual Nominee for Education Secretary
For one thing, she’s never attended or taught at a public school.
Betsy DeVos is likely to be confirmed as the next secretary of education. There’s nothing unusual about the Senate supporting a president-elect’s choice to lead the U.S. Department of Education. But DeVos is a more controversial choice than nominees in recent memory.
At his hearing, the outgoing education secretary, John King, faced friendly questioning from the senators on the education committee in charge of moving nominations forward, including from the Republican chairman, Lamar Alexander. King’s predecessor, Arne Duncan, was confirmed in the Senate by a voice vote. It’s not just Democrats who have had easy confirmations, either. Both of George W. Bush’s education secretaries—Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings—were also confirmed by voice vote and received praise during their hearings from Republicans and Democrats alike.
There are a couple of reasons DeVos hasn’t achieved the same level of bipartisan support, chief among them her family’s vast wealth and concerns around how she will distance herself from potential conflicts of interest. DeVos is a billionaire who grew up in a wealthy family and married into another wealthy family. (The DeVos family co-founded Amway.) Some previous education secretaries, including Alexander, who served in the role under President George H.W. Bush, are worth several million dollars, but DeVos’s wealth is on another level.
She has ties to several education companies, including Social Finance, which started out as a student-loan refinancing company, as well as companies that sell textbooks and promote online education. The companies she’s invested in will be affected by the choices she makes as the head of the department, including decisions about which companies the government contracts with to handle student loans, and how it oversees different sectors, including online or virtual Betsy DeVos Is an Unusual Pick for Education Secretary - The Atlantic: