The U.S. Senate voted 50-48 Wednesday to confirm Mick Zais for the position.
President Donald Trump had recommended Zais for the post last fall.
Zais was elected state education superintendent in 2010 and regularly feuded with teacher groups and members of the state board of education. His supporters say he will be able to help push conservative education policies in a department headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
While in the state post, Zais criticized the U.S. Education Department, rejecting some federal funds because of what he called the number of strings attached to the money.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Tim Scott backed Zais' nomination.
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