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Trump Picks Michigan School Choice Advocate Betsy DeVos to be Education Secretary

The appointment must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

A Michigan school choice advocate could be the next U.S. education secretary if President-elect Donald Trump has his way. 

Trump announced his nomination of Betsy DeVos on Wednesday, Nov. 23, in a statement that was posted on Twitter.

President-elect Trump announced Betsy DeVos as his pick for Education Secretary today. Here is his statement: — Transition 2017 (@transition2017) November 23, 2016
DeVos, 58, has been a proponent of giving parents more options in where to send their kids to school, whether they're public or private, online or offline. 

I am honored to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again. The status quo in ed is not acceptable. — Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVos) November 23, 2016
The Michigan native describes herself as an advocate for children, an activist and an entrepreneur on her website. She currently serves as chairman on the board of the investment and management firm The Windquest Group, where her husband Dick DeVos is the president. He started the public charter high school West Michigan Aviation Academy in 2010 after she encouraged him to do so, and that school is included in The Windquest Group's portfolio as a nonprofit venture.  

The aviation academy gives students online learning opportunities and provides an iPad for every student, according to its website. Students also participate in more interactive learning experiences and collaborate with technology. 

Kecia Ray, the chair of the ISTE board and executive director of the Center for Digital Education, said, "Congratulations to Ms. DeVos in her appointment as Secretary of Education. I look forward to seeing the secretary's plan for supporting issues related to education technology such as broadband access, data privacy, and personalized learning as outlined in the National Education Technology Plan. I hope she will bring to her cabinet passionate educators with an interest and expertise in education technology."

In addition to chairing The Windquest Group's board, Betsy DeVos also chairs the school choice organization American Federation for Children and its related group the American Federation for Children Growth Fund. The federation says it focuses on promoting education policies that empower low-income parents in particular to choose the best education options for their children. 

She's a board member for a number of other organizations, including the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush founded and currently chairs. The foundation develops student-centered education reform policies around education savings accounts, course access and competency-based education, among other topics. 

Bush praised the nominee in a statement, saying, “She has a long and distinguished history championing the right of all parents to choose schools that best ensure their children’s success. Her allegiance is to families, particularly those struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder, not to an outdated public education model that has failed them from one generation to the next."

Given her focus on school choice, DeVos has not garnered the favor of education unions, instead calling them out as one of the roadblocks to innovation, according to The Detroit Free Press. Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, said in a statement, "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."

While she has not held political office, DeVos served as the Michigan Republican Party chairman four times between 1996 and 2005 and has been active in campaigns, according to her profile on the Foundation for Excellence in Education's page.

On her website, DeVos says she does not support the Common Core State Standards, even though she belongs to several organizations that do support it. But she does support higher standards, strong accountability and local control. 

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander from Tennessee, who chairs the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said his committee would work quickly to consider her nomination in January and said she would be able to restore the local control intentions of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

On the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education — Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) November 23, 2016