Betsy DeVos costing taxpayers nearly $20 million for armed security after she was greeted on the job by hecklers
Betsy DeVos leaves Jefferson Academy (WJLA)

After two protesters blocked her path during a visit to a Washington, D.C., middle school, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been receiving round-the-clock security from the U.S. Marshals Service.

The unusual security arrangement cost taxpayers $5.3 million last year and $6.8 million this year, with an estimated cost of $7.74 million for next year, reported NBC News.

The Department of Education will ultimately reimburse the $19.84 million estimated cost, which far exceeds the $3.5 million spent on security for former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July over his lavish spending habits.

Cabinet secretaries typically are protected by security arranged by internal enforcement units in their departments, but DeVos has been under the unusual protection arrangement since she was greeted by hecklers a few days after her confirmation.

About three dozen protesters greeted DeVos on Feb. 10, 2017, as she attempted to visit Jefferson Academy, and two of the protesters stood alongside a stairway and created a barrier with their arms by gripping the opposite railing.

DeVos and a man accompanying her briefly tried to pass but gave up and left the school grounds in a waiting town car.

It's not clear who made the request for additional security, but former Attorney General Jeff Sessions granted the protection on February 13, 2017 -- six days after her controversial confirmation as education secretary.

"The order was issued after the Department of Education contacted administration officials regarding threats received by the Secretary of Education," the Justice Department said in a statement. "The U.S.M.S. was identified to assist in this area based on its expertise and long experience providing executive protection."

The U.S. Marshals Service operates within the Justice Department and typically protects federal judges and apprehends federal fugitives, as well as administration of the witness protection program.

A spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment on the threats against DeVos, but a former spokeswoman for one of her predecessors said the former education secretary Arne Duncan had received death threats but did not use Marshals' protection.

Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said DeVos had not personally requested the protection, and she also declined to comment on the threats.

NBC News and the watchdog group American Oversight determined that DeVos spent less than 4 percent of her time visiting traditional public schools in the school year that began in September 2017.