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Betsy Devos Made Her First Visit to a School as Education Secretary: Howard University

Betsy DeVos, just sworn in as education secretary after Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to confirm her appointment, visited Howard University on Thursday to meet with university leaders.

It was her first visit as secretary. On Friday, she visited Jefferson Academy, a public school in Washington, where protesters greeted her outside the school.

DeVos’s nomination highlighted stark divides in education policy. Best known as an ardent supporter of charter schools, vouchers for private schools and other options to traditional public education, she draws praise as an agent for change unafraid to take on powerful teachers’ unions and bureaucracy. She also draws criticism for her lack of support for public schools, and many criticss urged senators to vote against someone they saw as a billionaire donor with limited understanding of education.

Reaction to the choice of Howard as her first visit as secretary mirrored some of that split: To supporters, the visit served as an important symbol of her commitment to equity in education. To detractors, it was a photo op, devoid of substance.