GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint West Michigan philanthropist Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is receiving mixed reactions from educational leaders.
DeVos is the second woman chosen to fill a spot in Trump’s Cabinet. Earlier Wednesday, Trump named South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Trump has called DeVos “a brilliant and passionate education advocate.”
The 58-year-old heads the advocacy group American Federation for Children and is a longtime supporter of charter schools and vouchers.
DeVos has long drawn the ire of groups like the National Education Association, which said Wednesday her appointment was a bad idea.
Meanwhile, public school academies praised the move.
Locally, Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal told 24 Hour News 8 she is supportive.
“I wasn’t surprised. I actually talked to Dennis, my husband, about it as soon as Betsy’s name was mentioned and I thought she’s be a great pick. She’s knowledgeable about education, she’s concerned about children. She’s been a great supporter of mine and the Grand Rapids Public Schools,” said Weatherall Neal.
However, Grand Rapids Education Association President Mary Bouwense says DeVos’ nomination should raise red flags.
“It’s not thrilling. What my concerns are is that she has no experience in education,” Bouwense said.
Before Trump’s announcement, some conservatives were complaining about DeVos’ ties to the political establishment.
DeVos has long been involved in Republican politics; on a national scale, she and her family have been among the most generous donors to Republicans.
DeVos focused her response Wednesday on her plans for the nation’s educational system.
“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,” she tweeted.
DeVos’ husband Dick, an heir to the Amway fortune who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006, also headed a number of education projects, including a voucher plan that was defeated by voters in 2000.
DeVos’ support of some educational elements like Common Core remain in question. Before her appointment, some conservatives warned that she previously supported Common Core standards that Trump railed against during the campaign.
Wednesday afternoon, DeVos took to Twitter to clarify her position, saying “I am not a supporter-period.”
Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook says kids will suffer because of the president-elect’s pick.
“There’s nothing in this that bodes well for millions and millions of kids across the country. She’s done nothing for Michigan public education, and we really don’t know what qualifies her to do it nationally,” he said.
Both DeVos and Haley must still be confirmed by the Senate.