Education Secretary Betsy DeVos submitted her resignation in a letter to President Trump on Thursday, saying she would step down the next day over the rampage at the Capitol by his supporters.
Ms. DeVos joins a growing exodus of administration officials in the final days of the Trump administration. She is the second cabinet-level official to step down; Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, also resigned on Thursday.
“We should be highlighting and celebrating your administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people,” Ms. DeVos wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “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.”
“That behavior was unconscionable for our country,” she added. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”
Ms. DeVos was one of the first cabinet secretaries to condemn the violent mob on Capitol Hill.
“The peaceful transfer of power is what separates American representative democracy from banana republics,” Ms. DeVos said in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday evening, hours after the storming of the Capitol. “The work of the people must go on.”
Ms. DeVos was one of the most effective, polarizing and longest-serving Cabinet members in the Trump administration. She was seen as fiercely loyal to the president, at least publicly.
In her resignation letter, Ms. DeVos praised President Trump for championing her school choice agenda, in which she sought to bolster voucher programs that allow students to seek alternatives to public schools. She also saluted one aspect of his coronavirus response, saying that she believed “history will show we were correct in our repeated urging of and support for schools reopening this year.”
But it was loyalty to her constitutional oath, Ms. DeVos said, that had prompted her to resign.
“Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us,” she said. “They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired yesterday.”
Ms. DeVos’s resignation drew cheers from her opponents, particularly teacher’s unions and groups that had forcefully opposed her rollbacks of civil rights protections for children of color and transgender students.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, issued a two-word statement: “Good Riddance.”
But other critics praised her for protesting the president’s actions.
“This doesn’t make up for all of her bad decisions, and the harm she has done to education reform, but still, she deserves kudos for this one,” tweeted Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative research organization.