Sen. Corker backs Betsy DeVos as education secretary

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Just one day after approving her nomination in a Senate committee, two Republican senators say they'll vote against Betsy DeVos in the final vote. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

Betsy DeVos, a 59-year-old billionaire from Michigan, has been criticized nationally for her stances on school choice as well as not not attending, working for or sending her children to public schools.(Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

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WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Corker signaled his support Thursday for President Donald Trump’s embattled Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos.

“For decades, Betsy DeVos has passionately and effectively advocated for all children – regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic status – to have access to a quality education,” Corker said in a statement released by his office.

“She believes in empowering parents and has committed to working with states and local school districts. I have known Betsy for many years and am confident that she will do a great job as secretary of education.”

Corker’s endorsement comes as DeVos’ nomination appears to be at risk with the announcement Wednesday by two Republican senators – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – that they will not support her. The senators questioned both her experience and commitment to public schools.

With Collins and Murkowski saying they will vote against DeVos — and earlier indications that all of the 46 Senate Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them would likely vote against her — her nomination could result in a 50-50 tie when it goes to the floor. That tie would be broken on DeVos‘ behalf by Vice President Mike Pence in his role as Senate president, though both sides will be looking for members of the other party to pick off.

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DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and philanthropist, faces criticism from Senate Democrats who say she knows too little about education policy and would undermine public schools. DeVos, who also faces opposition from education and civil rights groups, did not attend public school and has never worked in a public school environment.

In Tennessee, Corker’s and Sen. Lamar Alexander’s offices have been flooded with calls from angry teachers and other constituents who say DeVos is unqualified to be education secretary.

Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, supports DeVos and presided over her confirmation hearing.

A spokesman for the Tennessee Education Association expressed disappointment in Corker’s decision to support DeVos.

“It’s unfortunate Sen. Corker will vote for DeVos,” said Jim Wrye, the association’s government relations manager. “Her organization, the Federation for Children, has been promoting things that Tennessee has rejected, like for-profit charters and vouchers. Corker should know her organization attacked and failed to unseat pro-public school Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly during the August primaries. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. She clearly showed she was unqualified.”

Reach Michael Collins at, at or on Twitter at .

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