“The first network TV news interview with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.”
Every TV news network and show has probably been hankering to make that boast, given the controversy surrounding DeVos. The winner of the contest for a sit-down with the secretary is ... “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” the NBC News magazine show starring the former Fox News Channel anchor.
NBC hyped the interview a bit, and noted in promotional materials that it would come in the context of a visit to Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School and in a story about the national debate over charter schools.
In the end, the roughly 10-minute segment by correspondent Craig Melvin was a decent rehash of the debate over whether charter schools skim the best students from traditional public schools. But the interview with DeVos was largely a disappointment because the segment used only a few of her comments.
“Critics have said that [charter school] successes have come at the expense of neighborhood schools,” Melvin says to DeVos in their interview at Boys Latin. “Are you OK with that?”
DeVos says, “Actually, I think schools like this are really great examples of schools that are meeting the needs of kids that haven’t fit in elsewhere.”
“Instead of talking about schools and school buildings, we should be talking about funding students and investing in individual students,” the secretary adds.
And that was pretty much it for the exclusive interview with the media-shy DeVos. I wasn’t expecting an entire hour with the secretary, but getting something that went beyond her talking points would have been nice.
The rest of Melvin’s segment was a bit of a delicate dance in which he sought to portray Boys Latin as the demanding, successful school for inner-city students that it is while also delving into the charters versus neighborhood public schools debate.
And while the story was largely positive for Boys Latin, Melvin did note that the school has no English-language learners and he pressed founder and recently retired CEO David P. Hardy about the fairness of the school’s former admissions policy, which involved interviews with parents. (The school now admits students by lottery.)
Perhaps the keenest observation about the charter school debate in the segment came from Philadelphia City Council member Helen Gym, an education activist and former charter school advocate who “is now on the other side of the fight,” Melvin says.
“We’ve created two enormous warring systems that are cannibalizing one another,” Gym says.
The charter schools segment was not the only education story on Kelly’s ratings-challenged show on Sunday.
Kelly herself was the reporter for a segment about a study showing that while girls have a strong perception of their intellect and abilities at a young age, that confidence erodes as they get just a little older, when many view boys and men as smarter.
So, “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly” is a high profile place for education stories. At least while it’s still around.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.