Donald Trump picks charter school advocate and GOP donor Betsy DeVos as education secretary

The Michigan official is the second woman to be picked for Mr Trump's cabinet, after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was selected as US ambassador to the United Nations

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The Independent Online

US President-elect Donald Trump has chosen charter school advocate and billionaire Republican donor Betsy DeVos to be the Secretary of Education in his administration.

Mr Trump announced the appointment, which will be subject to Senate confirmation, on Wednesday, describing Ms DeVos as “a brilliant and passionate education advocate.”

The 58-year-old Michigan philanthropist is Mr Trump’s second female cabinet pick, following the announcement earlier on Wednesday of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the United Nations.

Ms DeVos, who chairs education campaign group the American Federation for Children (AFC), wrote on Twitter that she was “honoured” to work with Mr Trump “on his vision to make American education great again,” adding: “The status quo in [education] is not acceptable.”

Under her leadership, the AFC has lobbied for the expansion of charter schools and school voucher programmes that would offer low-income families public money to spend on private school tuition for their children. On the campaign trail, Mr Trump pledged to spend some $20bn on block grants to states to provide school choice via a voucher system.

Ms DeVos is also on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, which promoted the Common Core standardised education targets – an initiative Mr Trump strongly criticised during his campaign. Ms DeVos has never worked in public education and sent her own children to private Christian schools.

Ms DeVos, whose husband Dick DeVos is a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and heir to the Amway marketing fortune, donated to several of Mr Trump’s establishment rivals during the GOP primary, including Mr Bush and Marco Rubio. In March, she told the Washington Examiner Mr Trump was an “interloper” who did not “represent the Republican party”.

Her appointment may appease establishment Republicans, but was unlikely to find favour with teachers’ unions. In a statement, National Education Assocation President Lily Eskelen Garcai said Ms DeVos’s enthusiasms were detrimental to public education, accusing her of having “consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatise, de-professionalise and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education.”