Florida leaders are heaping praise on President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Education Secretary as the clock counts down until her confirmation on Tuesday.
State governors, both past and present, are going to bat for DeVos, praising her for what they say is a deeply-rooted commitment to education nationwide.
On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott penned a letter to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, which will meet to discuss DeVos’ candidacy Tuesday.
DeVos, Scott said, has what it takes to be an effective education secretary, and praised her dedication to school choice programs.
“Mrs. DeVos has dedicated her life, personally and professionally, to improving education in the United States of America,” Scott wrote.
As one of DeVos’ personal friends, Scott said her promotion and “passion” for school choice for needy children was what he admired the most about DeVos’ character.
“I am confident she will lead the agency with honor and integrity and that she will work aggressively to ensure all of our nation’s students have access to a high-quality education that will prepare them to accomplish their academic and career goals,” Scott wrote.
Scott isn’t the only Florida governor who has pushed for DeVos’ confirmation. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also said the former Michigan Republican Party chair is what the country needs to succeed in education.
Bush’s comments are particularly notable since he, too, has been heavily involved in education issues throughout his career.
“Betsy is a champion of families, not institutions,” Bush wrote to the HELP committee. “For her, local control of education decisions means local control. She trusts parents to choose what is in their unique child's best interests, and she believes in providing every parent with the resources to pursue those decisions.
Bush said DeVos would put the power back into the hands of local communities to provide opportunities for their students.
“I’m confident that, as Secretary, Betsy will pursue every opportunity to improve all of our nation's schools and empower states, districts and parents to maximize the number of high-quality learning opportunities available to our kids,” he said.
Not everyone is pleased with DeVos’ upcoming appointment, though. Democrats and teachers unions nationwide have sharply opposed putting DeVos in the top job of the nation’s education system.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, said DeVos was severely underqualified for the job, trashing her for being the “most anti-public education nominee in the history of the department.”
“Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as secretary of education,” Weingarten said in Washington. “Her drive to privatize education is demonstrably destructive to public schools and to the educational success of all of our children.”
The Badass Teachers Association has protested DeVos' appointment for months, criticizing her for having no experience in public education.
"Public education is not a business. Public education is not a competition. In competition and business there are winners and losers. Public education should be about nurturing our most valuable resource - our children," said BATs executive director Marla Kilfoyle. "Our children deserve a Secretary of Education who is an advocate for public education not privatization."
Other groups have suggested DeVos’ views and Trump’s campaign promises don’t match up, specifically on the controversial Common Core State Standards.
“Her statements saying that she opposes Common Core are really new [and came out] basically the day she was appointed,” Education Liberty Watch president and Florida Stop Common Core executive director Karen Effrem told Sunshine State News Wednesday. “Her record and the record of the organizations she founded, funded or chaired is strongly pro-Common Core and that’s a real concern given President-elect Trump’s promise to get rid of Common Core.”
Effrem told SSN she hoped committee members would pose questions to DeVos, pushing her to lighten the federal footprint in the country’s classrooms.
“I would hope she would vastly scale back federal control over states in education,” Effrem explained.
While DeVos wasn’t Effrem’s first choice for Ed Secretary, she said she hoped DeVos would team up with Trump to make good on his promise to abolish Common Core.
“Compared to some of the other people Trump could have chosen, I’m greatly disappointed, but I have to trust that he will keep an eye on her and make sure that she fulfills the promises that he made on the campaign trail,” Effrem said.