This story was updated on September 8, 2017.
Donald Trump advocated on the campaign trail for a $20 billion federal school-voucher program. But during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday evening, Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s choice to lead the U.S. Education Department, said school choice should be a state decision. She framed school choice as a right for students and families. And she said during the hearing that she was committed to strengthening public education for all students.
While the Michigan billionaire has backed charter schools and vouchers, which let families use public money to pay for private schools, DeVos would not, she said, try to force states to embrace school choice. But a number of organizations, largely Democratic, that had raised questions about DeVos’s commitment to expanding charters and vouchers and about her family’s financial holdings and religious causes were unlikely to find much more of the hearing reassuring.
Throughout the three-hour-plus exchange between DeVos and members of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, DeVos—who has never taught public school, never attended public school, and never held elected office—sidestepped questions about everything from how she will ensure that groups she has backed financially in the past will not feel pressure to behave a certain way to whether guns belong in schools. At one point, she seemed to suggest that a federal law governing how students with disabilities are educated could be left to states, prompting Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan to express concern about her grasp of the department’s obligations.