Gov. Bruce Rauner lauded Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ confirmation Tuesday, dismissing criticism about her appointment as “overblown emotion.”
“First of all, I think Betsy DeVos could be a very good secretary of education,” Rauner told reporters at a school in Downstate Herrin.
DeVos, who has no experience working in public education, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence voted in favor of the Michigan billionaire, breaking up a historic 50-50 tie.
The newly-anointed Secretary of Education faced considerable backlash after being nominated by President Donald Trump in December despite receiving an endorsement from Rauner.
During her confirmation hearing last month, DeVos was criticized for her lack of experience and sizable donations to GOP candidates. After being asked by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders whether her family had contributed over $200 million to the Republican Party over the years, DeVos replied, “That’s possible.”
DeVos’ family contributed $13,000 to Rauner’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign. That includes a $1,000 donation from Secretary DeVos, according to the Chicago Tribune. On Tuesday, the governor brushed off DeVos’ critics.
“I think that there’s probably some overblown emotion around this appointment and much that’s going on in the federal government,” the governor said.
Rauner once again signaled support Tuesday for school voucher programs, which DeVos has advocated for.
“I personally believe that there should be choice of schools for all parents regardless of whether they have much money or not,” the governor said. “Every family should be able to choose a school that fits their child the best, regardless of their income.”
“I think that’s a big principle,” he added.
The Chicago Teachers Union issued a scathing indictment of DeVos Tuesday, calling the Republican charter school advocate a “nightmare.”
“It’s no surprise that Bruce Rauner was among those who endorsed her, because they have a lot in common — such as using their extreme wealth to buy their positions,” CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement. “Our union will continue to stand in opposition to them and anyone else who is a threat to public education.”
On Tuesday, Rauner pushed for increased public school funding, noting that he has no control over federal education policy.
“What we can do in Illinois is make sure that we support our public schools to the utmost degree. And we have not done that,” Rauner said. “And I have been fighting, working hard to get more state support for our schools so our teachers can have the resources in every district, especially our lower income districts.”
“Let’s focus on what we can do,” he added. “Let’s have the best schools in Illinois ourselves. We can control that. The federal government stuff will take care of itself."