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Oklahoma senators vote to confirm Betsy DeVos

WASHINGTON – The Senate has confirmed school choice activist Betsy DeVos as Education secretary, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.

The Senate historian says it was the first time a vice president had to break a tie on a Cabinet nomination.

Two Republicans joined Democrats Tuesday to vote to derail DeVos’ nomination. Democrats cited her lack of public school experience and financial interests in organizations pushing charter schools. DeVos has said she would divest herself from those organizations.

Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska fear that DeVos’ focus on charter schools will undermine remote public schools in their states.

DeVos’ nomination sparked concern among many parents, who got to work calling their representatives to encourage them to vote against the billionaire.

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford and Sen. Jim Inhofe both voted to confirm DeVos on Tuesday.

“Throughout her 30-year career as an education reform advocate and as the chairman for the American Federation for Children, Betsy DeVos has fought to give parents the ability to choose a better school for their children. I am confident she will use her authority as secretary of education to give state and local governments more control over education policy,” Inhofe said. “This is the kind of reform that DeVos has long fought for in order to give parents of all students—including low-income, minority and special needs children—access to high-quality education. I look forward to working with her to bring education authority back to the states.”

“I voted to confirm Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary because of her absolute commitment to transfer more control of education policy from Washington, DC to states and local leaders. Mrs. DeVos will not force any district or state to run education according to her personal dictates or preferences. Many of us have seen the dangers of a centralized, one-size-fits-all bureaucracy that assumes every child learns the same way and requires the same school model. We must reject that philosophy. Oklahomans, not bureaucrats in Washington, should address our education needs, because they can make education decisions that are best for Oklahoma students, teachers, and families,” Lankford said in a statement.

However, Lankford’s office admitted that he received more than a 1,000 calls and letters from Oklahomans regarding DeVos.

KFOR asked Lankford’s office how many of the comments were for or against DeVos, but they refused to release that information.

KFOR received a copy of a letter sent by Lankford’s office confirming this correspondence.

“We received more than 1,000 phone calls and letters on the nomination of Mrs. Betsy DeVos. It is common to receive that type of feedback on a hot political issue that is receiving national media coverage. Our office policy is to not disclose the content of our constituent correspondence to respect the privacy of those that contact our office. The Senator appreciates feedback from constituents and respects any Oklahoman that calls, visits, or writes his office to voice their opinion.

“Oklahomans elected President Trump by a very wide margin, and therefore, they want the president to build his cabinet and government. Senator Lankford believes that millions of Americans have elected this president, and he therefore deserves to hire his team.” –Aly Beley, Spokesman, Senator James Lankford (R-OK)

In a news release on Tuesday, Lankford criticized Democrats who he said were stalling to prevent Trump from getting to work.