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Sen. Tim Scott defends Betsy DeVos as her nomination passes key vote Tuesday

January 31, 2017 GMT

WASHINGTON — A key committee narrowly voted to forward Betsy DeVos’s nomination as U.S. education secretary today with U.S. Tim Scott, R-S.C., defending his position following a week of mounting criticism.

His flurry of defensive social media postings and editorials in three South Carolina newspapers — including The Post and Courier — came as Scott himself has been targeted for not taking his constituents’ concerns about DeVos seriously.

“I know my phone lines ... have been bombarded by calls,” Scott said Tuesday morning during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s session to vote on advancing DeVos’s nomination for full Senate consideration.

The HELP committee voted 12-11 in DeVos’ favor, but along party lines.

“I will tell you, I started answering some of those calls myself. I started engaging with those teachers ... I found it very interesting,” Scott said.

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“It was educational for me to chat with my teachers in South Carolina about the place of public education as a priority in our state, about the impact of public education, wonderful for so many students,” he continued. “But there was without question high levels of confusion about Betsy DeVos. As I delved into their questions with other questions, I simply found that the information that they provided was inconsistent with the reality of who she is.”

Scott said DeVos will not single-handedly have the power to change education policy in the country, but rather would give more authority to the states to set best school practices.

Critics of DeVos say the longtime school choice advocate, in her home state of Michigan, promoted the expansion of charter schools that received little state oversight. Further, the charter schools there have performed worse than traditional public schools when student poverty levels are taken into account, according to a Detroit Free Press investigation.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.