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Devos made the statement during a virtual Department of Education meeting to discuss transition plans as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office, as Politico first reported, citing a recording of the meeting obtained by the outlet.
"Let me leave you with this plea: Resist," DeVos said. "Be the resistance against forces that will derail you from doing what’s right for students. In everything you do, please put students first – always."
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos arrives for an event in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
DeVos also acknowledged during the meeting that many current employees with the department would be staying "through the coming transition and beyond."
"Ultimately, our aim in everything we accomplished was to do what’s right for students," she said. "That’s a notion that, from the beginning, I hoped would unite everyone in education. And it should. Four years later, it’s still my focus and it’s still my hope for all of you."
As Politico noted, Devos' comment echoes leftists' use of the words "resist" and "resistance" that were popularized after President Trump took office. Education Department press secretary Angela Morabito told Fox News that the Politico story "is misleading and missed the point."
"The secretary urged the staff to always put students first, and resist anything that distracts from that mission," Morabito said. "Too many in Washington for too long have put the needs of adults and the education ‘system’ first. Secretary DeVos worked tirelessly for four years to reorient the conversation around students, especially disadvantaged students, and she urged everyone to keep students at the center of every decision."
Former National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten are believed to be frontrunners on the president-elect's shortlist for education secretary.
Biden's Education Department will likely be more in favor of teachers' unions and could reverse some of the Trump administration's education policies regarding Title X reform and critical race theory.
The Trump administration broadened the scope of ways in which colleges could investigate cases of sexual assault on campuses and issued an executive order that banned certain race- and sex-based training from federal contractors, the military, federal agencies and recipients of federal grants.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pauses as she testifies during a hearing of a House Appropriations Sub-Committee on the fiscal year 2021 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
The president-elect has not said he would seek to eliminate federal funding for charter schools, but he has pointed to his wife’s career as a lifelong teacher as a motivating factor in how he will tackle education in the U.S.
Biden's plans include increasing teacher pay, eliminating teacher student-loan debt, providing increased funding for special needs students and doubling the number of school psychologists, counselor nurses and social workers.
The president-elect has signaled he intends to diversify his Cabinet along the political spectrum, meaning there are likely to be some conservative candidates that will appeal to the GOP-majority Senate. Whether Biden would be able to push through an education secretary who is against charter schools remains to be seen.
Fox News' Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.