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Montana's Senators Split Over Education Secretary Confirmation

Betsy Devos, the new U.S. Secretary of Education, at a confirmation hearing on January 17, 2017.

Betsy DeVos eked out enough votes to become the next Education Secretary this morning. Montana’s Senators in Washington have mixed reactions to her confirmation.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester voted against DeVos, citing her lack of public education experience, an outpouring of opposition from Montanans, and her support for privatization of public schools among his reasons to oppose her nomination.

Speaking to Senate colleagues a few days before the vote, Tester warned of what he perceives as the dangers of school privatization.

"If we do that, we will destroy the foundation of this country, and we will destroy?—?it may take a few years?—?but we will destroy our democracy," Tester said.

Republican Senator Steve Daines cast the second-to-last "YEA" vote, setting up Vice-President Mike Pence's unprecedented tie breaking vote.

"Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the U.S. Senate today because she is returning education decisions back to our communities, giving children and parents the best choices and the best opportunities," Daines said.

Daines sent a letter of congratulations to DeVos today advocating for two federal acts that impact Montana's public schools. Daines received nearly $47,000 in campaign contributions from the DeVos family.

Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen also applauded DeVos's confirmation. Arntzen plans to invite DeVos to Montana to highlight the importance of local control, as well as the unique challenges and opportunities frontier schools face.

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