Will Betsy DeVos set new direction for nation’s education policies?

Most people couldn’t name recent U.S. education secretaries. However, many Americans can now identity the newest one, Betsy DeVos. Her rambunctious confirmation Tuesday led to the vice president casting the first tie-breaking vote in American history to settle a cabinet appointment.

DeVos’ notoriety reflects the unprecedented public opposition to her nomination, opposition that intensified after DeVos’ performance at her Senate hearing where she botched a question on special education, cited grizzly bears as a reason rural schools might need guns and refused to affirm the need for greater accountability of the growing charter school sector.

Why the uproar over the appointment of a federal official whose impact on local classrooms is constitutionally limited and essentially rests with its checkbook?

A Michigan billionaire with a penchant for giving large sums of money to Republican candidates, DeVos brings no education background to the post, having never attended public schools nor taught in one. However, she has staunch allies who know her through her family foundation and her commitment to vouchers and school choice, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who said, “Millions of families share Secretary DeVos’ vision for disrupting a failed status quo that has denied too many children access to a quality education. ”

DeVos is likely to re-invigorate the school choice debate in Georgia, which has remained cool toward vouchers and judicious in its approval of charter schools.

To read more about DeVos, go to the AJC Get Schooled blog.