Education

Education Secretary Betsy Devos pushes her school choice agenda at conference for education writers

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

One could never mistake U.S, Education Secretary Betsy Devos for a victim, but she sure played one Monday during the 72nd Education Writers Seminar being held in Baltimore.

Standing before a roomful of education writers from across the nation, Devos sternly accused Big Media of using her name to score page views.

“As much as many of you in the media use my name as click bait, or try to make it all about me, it’s not,” Devos said. Education is not about Betsy Devos, nor about any other individual. It’s about students.”

If the truth be told, Devos does have a way of generating unfavorable news reports.

Most recently Devos found herself in the headlines after she barred high school journalists in Kentucky from attending a roundtable event she headlined.

She’s also been criticized for a proposal to establish a federal tax credit to expand school choice. Under the plan, individuals and companies could receive a federal tax credit for awarding scholarships to students to attend private schools.

She defended the proposed Education Freedom Scholarships on Monday.

“Education Freedom Scholarships aren’t only for students who want to attend private schools,” Devos said. “In fact, some states may choose to design scholarships for public school options, such as apprenticeships or dual-enrollment or transportation to a different public school. Each state has the opportunity to be really imaginative and to serve the unique needs of students in their state.”

She also urged journalists to get the terminology right when they write about school choice.

“Charter schools are public schools,” Devos explained. “Vouchers are not tax-credits nor are they tax-deductions nor education savings accounts nor 529 accounts.”

She added: “There are many different mechanisms that empower families to choose the education that’s right for their children. And they are just that, mechanisms. So, the phrase, ‘vouchers for charter schools,’ for instance, is nonsensical.”

She said it’s time to rethink the definition of public education.

“Today, it’s often defined as one-type of school, funded by taxpayers, controlled by government,” Devos said. “But if every student is part of the public, then every way and every place a student learns is ultimately of benefit to the public.”

Devos said a majority of parents want some different than what traditional public schools offer.”

“While it is true that 90 percent of students today are enrolled in traditional public schools, it’s also true that 60 percent of their parents say they would prefer something different if only they had the freedom to choose,” Devos said.

Devos would not commit to continuing to serve as education secretary if President Donald Trump wins reelection.

“I’m not sure my husband would be OK with that,” DeVos said.

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