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Rauner praises Trump education secretary pick

Chicago Tribune

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner praised President-elect Donald Trump's choice for education secretary Thursday, saying the Michigan billionaire and school voucher proponent is "a very talented and very passionate education advocate."

Betsy DeVos, whose husband is an heir to the Amway fortune, was named late last month as Trump's choice to head the federal Department of Education.

DeVos is a longtime advocate for voucher programs that allow parents to use taxpayer funds to pay for private or parochial schools. She's also a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

"I do know Betsy DeVos, I have great respect for her," Rauner said Thursday when asked about Trump's selection of DeVos. "I think she's a very talented and very passionate education advocate. And I personally am a believer in school choice. And I look forward to working together."

Various DeVos family members contributed a combined $13,000 to Rauner's 2014 campaign for governor, including a $1,000 donation from Betsy DeVos, state campaign finance records show. The DeVos family is one of the nation's biggest donors to the Republican Party and also has spent to promote causes of some Christian churches, including opposition to same-sex marriage.

Rauner's support of DeVos puts him once again at odds with teachers unions, which oppose vouchers and objected to the DeVos choice. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis referred to DeVos last week as a "nightmare."

Lewis said she was concerned that DeVos might use the post to try to override limits on charter schools. The CTU fought for caps on charter school expansion in its recent contract negotiations. Rauner is an advocate of charter schools.

When Trump selected DeVos he said in a statement that she would "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."

kgeiger@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kimgeiger

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