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DeVos Resigns As Education Secretary, Says, 'Impressionable Children Are Watching'

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced her resignation on Thursday.
Matt York
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced her resignation on Thursday.

Updated at 11:55 p.m. ET

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sent a letter to President Trump on Thursday announcing her resignation. She is the latest administration official to quit in protest of Wednesday's violence at the U.S. Capitol. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

For four years, DeVos has been one of Trump's steadiest allies in a Cabinet with revolving doors, but in a letter to the president, DeVos said she was tendering her resignation, effective Friday, because she had seen enough this week:

"We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration's many accomplishments on behalf of the American people. Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protesters overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people's business."

She called the riots "unconscionable," and contrary to the president's efforts to downplay his role in fomenting the unrest, DeVos said she believed "there is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me."

"Impressionable children are watching all of this," she wrote of Trump's role in Wednesday's events, "and they are learning from us. I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgment and model the behavior we hope they would emulate."

In 2017, after Trump refused to condemn violence by white supremacists on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, which led to the deaths of three people, DeVos called the attacks "tragic" in a letter to Education Department staff.

"The views of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other racist bigots are totally abhorrent to the American ideal," she wrote in that 2017 letter. "We all have a role to play in rejecting views that pit one group of people against another. Such views are cowardly, hateful and just plain wrong." But DeVos did not single out the president for criticism, as she does in Thursday's letter of resignation.

DeVos said the job had been "the honor of a lifetime" and used the first half of her resignation letter to celebrate what she considered her greatest accomplishments under Trump, including restoring year-round Pell Grants for low-income students.

DeVos is the second member of Trump's Cabinet to quit over the Capitol attack. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced her resignation earlier Thursday, joining a handful of other senior officials who have announced their departures in the hours since the attack on the Capitol.

DeVos was one of the few top Trump officials to quickly condemn Wednesday's insurrection, tweeting "The disruptions and violence must end, the law must be upheld, and the work of the people must go on."

In resigning, DeVos will avoid one uncomfortable possibility: being asked to join other Cabinet secretaries in invoking the 25th Amendment to prematurely remove Trump from office, though it's not clear there is enough support, with or without DeVos, for such an effort to succeed.

News of DeVos' resignation was cheered by many public school advocates with whom she had clashed over the years in her efforts to promote school choice. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued a two-word statement: "Good Riddance."

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Miguel Cardona, the head of Connecticut's public schools and a former teacher and principal, to succeed DeVos as secretary of education.

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Cory Turner reports and edits for the NPR Ed team. He's helped lead several of the team's signature reporting projects, including "The Truth About America's Graduation Rate" (2015), the groundbreaking "School Money" series (2016), "Raising Kings: A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep" (2017), and the NPR Life Kit parenting podcast with Sesame Workshop (2019). His year-long investigation with NPR's Chris Arnold, "The Trouble With TEACH Grants" (2018), led the U.S. Department of Education to change the rules of a troubled federal grant program that had unfairly hurt thousands of teachers.
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