Senator Joni Ernst.

Iowa’s two U.S. Senators voted to confirm Betsy DeVos today as the U.S. Secretary of Education.

DeVos drew criticism for her lack of education background and the vote in the Senate ended in a 50-50 tie that had to be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.

Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, released a video message explaining her vote. “Over the last several weeks, I have thoroughly vetted Betsy DeVos, and have found that she shares the belief that those closest to our students — from parents to teachers to local administrators and local elected officials — know what is best for our students,” Ernst says. “Additionally, she has pledged to fight for all students, including those attending public, private, and charter schools.” She says DeVoss has also pledged to support students who require additional support due to developmental, physical, or other disabilities.

Ernst says she will be sure the DeVos follows through with what she has said she will do. “While I support her confirmation, I will be holding her accountable to the standard she has placed upon herself,” she says. Ernst acknowledged the controversy surrounding DeVos. “I have heard from folks on both sides of the debate over Betsy DeVos. Good people can disagree with one another and still engage in a civil, productive discourse,” Ernst says. “An open and honest dialogue is important and it’s critical that I continue to hear from you.”

She finished by saying she looks forward to “working with you to protect our schools, restore local control, and prepare our youth to enter the workforce.”

Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, released a statement on DeVos’ confirmation, saying:

“I believe Betsy DeVos will perform the job of U.S. Secretary of Education faithfully and well. There’s been a lot of misinformation that Mrs. DeVos opposes public schools. In fact, she’s committed to being an advocate for great public schools. What’s more, her job will not be to oversee public schools. That’s handled at the state and local school board levels. The role of the U.S. Secretary of Education is to implement federal education programs, which are largely targeted at providing additional assistance to disadvantaged students and students with disabilities whether they attend public or private schools.”

Grassley’s statement says DeVos has made it clear that her job would be to enforce all federal laws as Congress intended, and says that’s” refreshing in light of recent experience.” Grassley says the Obama Administration “overreached in trying to coerce states to adopt its preferred policies” and Congress passed safeguards to prevent any future secretary of education from pushing policies not included in federal law.

See Ernst’s message below: