US & Canada

Trump appoints Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos pose for photos at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey Image copyright AP

US President-elect Donald Trump has appointed a billionaire Republican donor who labelled him "an interloper" to be his education secretary.

Mr Trump called Betsy DeVos - the second woman appointed so far to his cabinet - "a brilliant and passionate education advocate".

She shunned him during the election race, donating money to his rivals.

Mr Trump also named another former critic, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, as US ambassador to the UN.

Both appointments need to be confirmed by the US Senate.

The incoming president said of Mrs DeVos in a statement: "Under her leadership we will reform the US 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."

The announcement comes four days after a meeting at Mr Trump's golf club in New Jersey between Mrs DeVos, the president-elect and Mike Pence, the vice president-elect.

Mrs DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican party, said she was honoured to accept the appointment.

"Together, we can work to make transformational change to ensure every student has the opportunity to fulfil his or her highest potential," she tweeted.

However, in an interview last March she said of Mr Trump: "I don't think he represents the Republican party. I think he is an interloper."

She also contributed to the election campaigns of the Manhattan tycoon's presidential rivals, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mrs DeVos introduces President George W Bush as he campaigned in Michigan in 2004

Mrs DeVos is an advocate of Republican-favoured charter schools, which are publicly funded and set up - outside the state school system - by teachers, parents, or community groups.

But she also previously supported the Common Core education standards that Mr Trump and many conservatives have pilloried.

Mr Trump has vowed to eliminate Common Core, a federal maths and reading syllabus set up in most states, calling the programme a "disaster".

During the primary campaign he even suggested abolishing the Department of Education altogether, saying that education "has to be local".

Opponents of Common Core assert that is a "top-down" takeover of state and local education systems by the federal government.

Mrs DeVos' husband, Dick DeVos, is one of the wealthiest people in the state of Michigan, and ran for state governor in 2006.

Forbes Magazine estimates his family fortune to be $5.1bn (£4.1bn) which Mr DeVos' father made after co-founding Amway, a direct-selling company.

Mrs DeVos' brother, Erik Prince, founded the private security firm Blackwater USA.