U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today voted to confirm Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos to become secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. DeVos was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 51-50 after Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote.
“Last year, Congress worked hard to return control of education to parents and local school boards, and Mrs. DeVos has demonstrated her strong commitment to follow the intent of Congress as implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act continues,” said Isakson, a member of the Senate committee that oversees education. “I appreciate her commitment to parents’ roles in education and school choice, as well as her statement of strong support for ensuring that kids with special needs get a personalized education plan. I also pledge to work with Mrs. DeVos in her new position to ensure the rights of all students are looked after moving forward.”
As a strong supporter of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Isakson asked DeVos to discuss the importance of the education of students with disabilities during their meeting prior to her nomination hearing. In response, DeVos wrote to Isakson on Jan. 24, 2017, explaining her commitment to protecting the rights of students with disabilities under IDEA. In her letter, DeVos said that the IDEA program is “a wonderful example of what happens when parents are regarded as full partners in their child’s educational decision-making” and that she is “committed to enforcing all federal laws and protecting the hard won rights of students with disabilities.”
Isakson questioned DeVos at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, on Jan. 17, 2017, regarding her positions on reducing burdensome regulations that make higher education more costly and less attainable for students. Isakson also asked DeVos about her views on the role of public-private pre-Kindergarten partnerships as an important part of public education in the United States.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted on Jan. 31, 2017, to advance DeVos’ nomination to a confirmation vote by the full Senate.
This was a historic vote, being the first time in US history that a cabinet member required a tie breaking vote from the Vice President in order to assure confirmation.