President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated Betsy DeVos as education secretary, picking a prominent charter school advocate and Republican Party donor.
DeVos, 58, was Trump’s second female cabinet pick. The president-elect also nominated Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The rest of his nominations and appointments thus far have been white men.
“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.
In selecting DeVos, Trump opted for a longtime supporter of charter schools and school voucher programs, two policies he promoted during the campaign. DeVos is the chair of the American Federation for Children, a pro-charter school group based in Washington, D.C.
But DeVos also supports the Common Core education standards, which are deeply unpopular among conservatives and many Republicans in Congress. Devos is a former board member of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a think tank created by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that supports the Common Core.
Trump criticized Common Core regularly during the campaign, arguing that the system should be replaced with state-based education standards. Trump used the issue to attack Bush, who left the race in February after failing to gain traction with the party’s conservative base.
Trump didn’t mention Common Core on Wednesday. Neither did DeVos in a statement accepting the nomination.
“The status quo in education is not acceptable,” DeVos said. “Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”
Some conservative groups and websites slammed the nomination, accusing Trump of abandoning his campaign promise to oppose Common Core.
Breitbart News, the alt-right site that was run until recently by Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief White House strategist, ran a headline that read: “Donald Trump Announces Pro-Common Core Betsy DeVos As Education Secretary.”
At the same time, Trump also drew criticism from teachers unions and some education groups for nominating someone who supports charter school expansion.
“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,” Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, said in a statement.
“Betsy DeVos has consistently worked against these values, and her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students,” she added.
DeVos, who comes from a prominent Michigan business family, is the chair of the Windquest Group, a privately-held investment group. She was a GOP official in Michigan for many years and served as the chairwoman of the state’s Republican Party in the late 1990s.
Over the years DeVos has donated more than $2.6 million to Republican candidates and conservative groups, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks campaign finance.