Washington Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, a Republican, has signed a letter supporting Betsy DeVos, the billionaire philanthropist who is President Trump’s pick for secretary of education.
OLYMPIA — Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville, Adams County, has signed a letter from state elected officials across the country supporting Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee for secretary of education.
DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist and longtime advocate of charter schools and education vouchers, has drawn criticism from Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.
Dozens of Republican elected officials sent a letter urging her confirmation to Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The letter, sent Jan. 17, describes DeVos as an “advocate and ally for all children.”
As secretary, “DeVos will put children first and empower not only states to lead the way in making critical education decisions, but also empower parents to choose what type of education is best for their children,” according to the letter.
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Schoesler is the only Washington official who signed the letter, which includes governors, lieutenant governors, lawmakers and other elected officials.
DeVos is an outsider who could shake up education policy, Schoesler said this week.
“I think it’s a little bit outside the establishment, the box,” Schoesler said. “We’re a state that supported charter schools as an initiative, and here in Olympia, and she supported charter schools as well.”
Schoesler added that Arne Duncan, an education secretary under President Obama, was often considered an outsider on education policy.
“Arne Duncan was disruptive to traditional thinking under President Obama, and I think President Trump has gone outside the norm a little bit here,” Schoesler said. “And so let’s give her a chance.”
Murray, the committee’s ranking Democrat, has raised concerns about DeVos’ record of fighting accountability for charter schools and private schools that receive taxpayer dollars.
Schoesler’s counterpart in the Legislature, state Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said she was disappointed Schoesler declared his support for DeVos.
“I have serious concerns about what she’s saying about children with disabilities and how we’re going to protect them,” said Nelson, who added that “it does not appear that she is a real proponent for public schools.”