WASHINGTON, D.C. - Donald Trump has selected businesswoman, Michigan Republican and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos to be his secretary of Education.
"Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said in a statement. “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families."
DeVos, who interviewed with the president-elect on Saturday, said she is "honored" to work with Trump "on his vision to make American education great again."
She added: "The status quo in education is not acceptable. Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”
Education groups that oppose charter schools quickly pounced on the DeVos selection, saying her plans would undercut public education.
“We believe that the chance for the success of a child should not depend on winning a charter lottery, being accepted by a private school, or living in the right ZIP code," said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. "We have, and will continue, to fight for all students to have a great public school in their community and the opportunity to succeed no matter their backgrounds or circumstances."
DeVos' background is a fit for Trump's plans to boost school choice in the U.S., particularly for high-poverty students. She is on the board of directors for the Great Lakes Education Project, which advocates for school choice and charter schools. She also chairs the board of directors of the American Federation for Children, another choice advocacy group.
DeVos and her husband led a failed effort to amend the Michigan constitution to provide vouchers that would allow students to attend private schools at public expense. That's a centerpiece of Trump's education plan. He would invest $20 billion in federal money toward school choice, and expect states to kick in $110 billion of their own money, to provide $12,000 each in school choice funds to the 11 million school-age children living in poverty.
DeVos, from Michigan, is a longtime advocate for charter schools and school vouchers. She leads the advocacy group, American Federation for Children.
"The status quo in education is not acceptable," she said in a statement Wednesday. "Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential."
The DeVos family has been active in Republican politics for decades, especially as donors to GOP candidates and the Republican Party. DeVos' husband, Dick, is an heir to the Amway fortune and a former president of the company.
The couple gave $22.5 million to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington in 2010, at the time the largest private donation in the center's history.
Hours before the DeVos pick was announced, conservative policy leader Frank Cannon, president of American Principles Project, called her "an establishment, pro-Common Core secretary of education."
"This would not qualify as 'draining the swamp,'" Cannon said, referencing Trump's campaign trail slogan. "And it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point."
During the campaign, DeVos was slow to warm to Trump.
She told The Associated Press in July, "A lot of the things he has said are very off-putting and concerning."
Trump is spending Thanksgiving with his family at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, in a release said DeVos "will be a a tremendous advocate, who parents can count on, to disrupt business as usual in Washington."
"For too long, the educational status quo has failed too many children," said Huizenga, in part. "Betsy has the knowledge and skill set to improve education by cutting through the bureaucratic red tape, restoring local control, and empowering parents to have a greater say in their children's education."
The Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber denounced Trump's choice.
"Betsy DeVos has spent millions of dollars working to dismantle and destroy public education in Michigan and across the country," said Bieber, in part. "By selecting a fellow billionaire who has been so openly hostile to hardworking teachers and public school employees, this should send a strong message to every parent in America that Donald Trump isn’t on the side of working families, and has no interest in improving education for America’s students."
WZZM 13's Andrew Krietz, Associated Press and Free Press staff writer Lori Higgins contributed to this story.
© 2017 Associated Press