By Mike Dougherty

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Activists have spent weeks protesting outside Senator Pat Toomey’s office in Philadelphia, criticizing his support for controversial Trump Administration appointees. In a town hall phone call with constituents this week, Toomey explained his reasons for voting to confirm one of the most polarizing cabinet picks, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Vice President Mike Pence had to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate to confirm DeVos. One of the ‘yes’ votes came from Senator Toomey.

“You can’t be an upwardly mobile society unless everyone at least gets a shot at a good education. So what Betsy DeVos has argued for is something I agree with very, very much: we ought to let parents choose the school their children will attend.”

He says too often it’s only the rich who have choices, while poor families, like some in Philadelphia, are stuck with lower quality schools.

“If you’re a low-income family, if you’re a working-class family, you don’t have the luxury of being able to pick the community you live in. And you certainly can’t afford private education,” Toomey said. “I want those families to be able to have the same kind of educational opportunities that wealthier families have.”

“I don’t believe that Betsy DeVos intends to tear apart public education,” the senator added. “I certainly don’t intend to tear apart public education, but I do hope that we will move in the direction of giving more parents more choices.”

Toomey feels if public schools are doing their jobs well, parents would have no reason to abandon the public system.

“But when it’s not doing a great job, then parents should be able to pull their kids out of that school and send them somewhere else,” he said. “Competition will elevate everybody’s game.”