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Federal Q&A

A Conversation With Betsy DeVos: Live From EWA (Video and Transcript)

By Mike Bock — May 07, 2019 32 min read
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In her first appearance at the Education Writers Association annual meeting, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sat down May 6 for an interview with New York Times reporter Erica L. Green, and answered questions from those in the audience. She was introduced by EWA Executive Director Caroline W. Hendrie.

Here is the transcript of that discussion, which Education Week streamed live from Baltimore. (The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Betsy DeVos: Well, thank you so much for your introduction Caroline, and thank you for hosting me here today. Education is an issue I tend to think a lot about, and have for many years. I’ve followed all of your reporting, and I appreciate all that you do as journalists. The simple truth is, I never imagined I’d be a focus of your coverage. I don’t enjoy the publicity that comes with my position. I don’t love being up on stage nor any kind of platform. I am an introvert.

As much as many in the media use my name as clickbait, or try to make it all about me, it’s not. Education is not about Betsy DeVos, nor about any other individual. It’s about students. It’s about acknowledging the innate value of every single one of them, and embracing the belief that each one has an important role to play, a purpose if you will.

If you accept that, then each of them should have the freedom to develop and achieve their fullest potential. That’s why I’m here. My involvement with education begun more than 30 years ago, when my older sick Rick, who is now 37, was beginning kindergarten. Dick and I have four grown children today, and eight grandchildren so far. When Rick was starting kindergarten, Dick and I knew we were going to be able to send our children and have our children in whatever school we thought would be right for each of them.

I started volunteering for, and getting involved at a small faith-based school in the core of our city. It’s one that exists yet today, has for I think over 35 years now. Ninety percent of the operating funds for that school are raised annually from benefactors in the larger community. It serves the most vulnerable populations, including many refugees from countries all around the world. The more I got involved at The Potter’s House School, the more I realized that for every child there, for every family that was able to have a child there, there were probably 10 or 20 other families that really wanted to have their kids there.

I realized more and more the unfairness of the situation, and the system that we have grown to become accustomed to. I became committed to working to change that system to bring about fairness for all of those families that want something different for their kids. That’s why I entered public life to promote policies that empower all families. Notice that I said families. Families, not government. It should surprise no one that I’m a common-sense conservative with a healthy distrust of centralized government. Instead, I trust the American people to live their own lives and to decide their own destinies. It’s a freedom philosophy.

Erica, I look forward to discussing our education freedom scholarships proposal at length. It’s one that deserves accurate reporting and fair analysis. First of all, in too many stories about this proposal, I see the term “public money.” I’m reminded of something another education secretary often said. Margaret Thatcher said that, “Government, has no source of money other than the money people earn themselves.”

There is no such thing as public money. The Iron Lady was right. Our proposal allows people to direct money they themselves have earned. They will voluntarily contribute to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships directly to students. It’s a much more effective and efficient way of getting resources to students who need them the most. Second, Education Freedom Scholarships aren’t only for students who want to attend private schools. 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.

Third, let’s get the terminology right, about schools and school choice. Charter schools are public schools, vouchers are not tax credits, nor are they tax educations, nor education savings accounts, nor 529 accounts. There are many different mechanisms that empower families to choose the education that’s right for their children, and they are just that, mechanisms. The phrase, “vouchers for charter schools,” for instance, is nonsensical.

Fourth, let’s stop and rethink the definition of public education. Today, it’s often defined as one type of school funded by taxpayers, controlled by government. If every student is part of the public, then every way and every place a student learns is ultimately of benefit to the public. That should be the new definition of public education. While it’s 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. I’ll continue to fight for their freedom, and for freedom for all. Thank you, and I look forward to our conversation.

Erica L. Green: Thanks so much. On behalf of the Education Writers Association, I’d like to welcome you here. We are really glad you came this year. On behalf of Charm City I would like to welcome you to Baltimore. We don’t have a lot of time, and so many questions. I want to start by talking about the Education Freedom Scholarship program, even though you don’t call it a program. This proposal faces an uphill battle. I think for us, our challenge in covering this is determining how far it’s going to go. Could you update us on how you are garnering support in Congress and even in the education choice advocacy community for this to become a reality?

Thanks Erica, and thanks for having me in your city. Let me just start by talking just a little bit more broadly about Education Freedom Scholarships, and put it in the context of the fact that for 50 or 60 years now, we have been doing essentially the same thing, spending more money around it, and expecting different results. I think about a recent piece of research that just came out from the combination of Paul Peterson at Harvard and Eric Hanushek at Stanford, that looked at the last 50 years, noted that while at the federal level alone we’ve spent more than over a trillion dollars to try to improve education for students.

It hasn’t ultimately improved anything for any students, particularly not for the most vulnerable students. The Education Freedom Scholarships’ proposal is one that should be appealing to everyone, because Einstein said often that the definition of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.

If we expect to have better and different results for kids we’ve got to do something different. This proposal has the appeal across a broad swath of people, those who really care about students and their future. We know that there are too many kids today that are stuck in schools that aren’t working for them.

Is it appealing to the people who matter, who are going to have to get this passed?

We are making to make that very evident to them. The reality is that there is a wide range of choices that could be adopted. As I referenced in my remarks, we want people to think very broadly of what introducing more choices to students could mean, and for states to think very creatively about what kinds of new opportunities they could make available to their students. We talk a lot today about career and technical education. The fact that we have over 7 million jobs today going unfilled at the national level, that requires some kind of education beyond high school, but not necessarily a four year degree.

This mismatch needs to really be addressed in a significant way. This proposal could help states jump-start some of those efforts to address those needs and to fill those gaps, and I would argue to tear down the barriers, and the walls that have artificially been built up between K-12 years and higher education of community college, or four-year, any other higher ed experience. We need to become more holistic about how students prepare themselves for a lifelong learning journey.

I mean, on this topic, I think it’s been argued for years that more money may not be the answer. For just a kid who wants to go to school around the corner, to their neighborhood school, and they want it to be a high-quality school. They don’t want to apply for a scholarship. They don’t want to go to any other program, they just want to go to school and they want to improve, and they want investment. How is the department supporting that kind of child, and what’s in this for them?

Well, again, here I would argue that more choices and more freedom in education will ultimately mean better experiences and more excellence at every school, whether it’s a neighborhood school, or one across town that you choose to go to because it has a specific program that you are interested in. I often cite Florida as a really great example. Florida is the furthest along with offering the kinds of choices that we are talking about to families.

About 20 years ago when Jeb Bush was governor there, many reforms were implemented, both within the traditional system, but also introducing various forms of choice. Today, for districts where the highest percentage of students are choosing to go to a school other than their assigned school, the students in their neighborhood schools, that have stayed in their neighborhood schools are actually doing better as well. The results from those schools continue to improve, because those schools have been making decisions that they might have not made before.

So competition?

Because having competition and having comparisons forces them to do some things they won’t have done previously.

We also know that in districts that have choice, there is a sense of some students feeling left behind when there is so much mobility, and students are going across town for different opportunities. Do you think resources matter at all in improving public schools and neighborhood schools?

Well, clearly resources are a very important part of the equation. I think having the ability to direct and control where those resources go on the child or family level really helps families become wise consumers, and make decisions based upon what their particular needs are for their child. How their child learns or how their child is interested in pursuing their future. What more education freedom will ultimately do also is introduce a whole lot more approaches to learning that heretofore have not been able to really experience.

We’ll have a lot more creativity, and a lot more imagination brought to bear. It was interesting in a brief conversation before we came out here today. I was talking with one of the hosts here today, who is studying education around the world. He noted that in the Netherlands—the country of my ancestry, I will just say—the Netherlands, they have 59 different schools, different kinds of schools. Wouldn’t it be great if we could say 59 is just a number in the rearview mirror, and that we have over a hundred or more different kinds of schools to offer here in the United States.

Are you reaching out to Democrats, are you convincing anyone?

I am reaching out to Democrats as are the sponsors in both of the chambers. We know that bringing support onboard for this initiative is going to take time, it didn’t ... We didn’t get where we are overnight. We know that change for many people is hard. ... what it does represent is an opportunity for every state to decide whether or not they want to participate, no mandate, no forcing them to do it, but if they do, to really craft an approach, or approaches that are really going to meet the needs of students in their state. The needs in, let’s say, North Dakota might be very very different than Connecticut, for instance.

I say Democrats, because there were some statements that it was dead on arrive, but I will note that Republicans have had reservations about choice-like programs as well. We are running out of time. How far are you willing to go to make this a reality? Could we expect a Race to the Top for choice from you? Are you just going to let the legislative process play out?

Well, look, this is something that Congress eventually ultimately has to either embrace or not. I acknowledge that it’s a process not an event, until it becomes an event. I will continue to advocate that, and argue for the fact that we need to do something different for students. We’ve got to do something different after 50 or 60 years of doing the same thing, let’s try a new approach, and let’s try it in a way that doesn’t in any way negatively impact what already is going on, because this is not going to take anything away from anyone or anywhere. It’s going to be additive to, and it’s going to allow for the kind of creativity that we know is resident in every community across this country.

Another proposal that I thought we’d spend just a little bit of time on is this idea of teacher vouchers, and teacher autonomy. Now it was I think part of the budget proposal. It may not go far. That was new. So, can you tell us a little bit about where that came from?

I would love to. I have talked with hundreds of teachers across the country. Almost to a person, they talk about their frustration with their professional development, and how all too often it is a sort of fit in the box, check the box, exercise, rather than something that’s very value added for each one individually. I recall a specific round table discussion in South Carolina. Those teachers gathered there were particularly vocal about the fact that ... Why are they continuing to waste our time forcing us to take our time to do things that are not helping us become better at what we do?

The more I thought about that, and the more our team really discussed what options we might have, the more we thought that introducing a pilot program to give educators the opportunity to choose the right kind of personal professional development for themselves was an idea worthy of exploration. I think about a new inexperienced teacher, how different professional development might look for that individual, versus someone who is an extraordinary teacher, and has been in teaching for 25 or 30 years, and how actually mutually beneficial they can be to one another.

That also speaks to another part of the proposal that we have, which is a teacher mentorship and residency program. Another thing that I’ve heard repeatedly is how those teachers who are really excellent at what they do, and want to continue to develop professionally themselves, often the only opportunity or the only option that they have is to go into administration and leave the classroom, the thing that they are best at doing. I think that’s a tragedy for everyone, because the students don’t ultimately benefit.

The teachers themselves really wish that they had that opportunity to be with students again. Why don’t we encourage and help seed a system that will help them continue to develop professionally, and give them options for excellent teachers to teach new and less-experienced teachers what they know, and provide a forum and a format to be able to do that.

We also have teachers striking across the country for higher pay and smaller classrooms and that sort of thing, not necessarily professional development, but other priorities. Do you support them in that advocacy as well?

First of all, I think great teachers need to be well paid. Every state has their issue to be dealt with with their teachers. I would just say that I think it would be ... I think it’s important that adults have adult disagreements and adult time, and that they not ultimately hurt kids in the process. I think too often they are doing so by walking out of classrooms and having their arguments in the way that they are.

I would also say that I think, again, really great teachers should be compensated more, but their system, the system really forces them into a box that doesn’t recognize teachers as the individuals they are. We think, I think, teaching as a profession should be a highly honored and respected profession. I think it’s been deprofessionalized in many ways. I think great teachers perhaps should be making at least half as much as what Randi Weingarten does at a half million dollars a year.

The theme of the conference is student success, safety and well-being. In the wake of Parkland you led the administration’s efforts to examine these factors, and the students’ educational experience, and the most concrete action arguably taken was the rescission of the Obama era, rethink discipline, guidance that sought to curb the rates of the number of black and Latino students being suspended. As you well know, this was controversial, because one, school shooters have historically been white. We know that there is no predictable profile for school shooters. This particular student had been disciplined multiple times. I think an outstanding question that we all still have is, what the connection, if there was any connection found between what happened in Parkland, the tragedy that happened in Parkland and this discipline guidance.

Well, the school discipline guidance was actually something that we had been considering and discussing for months before the school safety commission was stood up. In the wake of the Parkland tragedy, as you know President Trump asked me to chair this commission, and he gave the commission a number of issues and items to look at as part of the work that we did.

School discipline was among them. To tie the timing together is inaccurate, because it’s one that we had been working on and looking at for a long time. We felt it was a overreach by the previous administration. I actually had a listening session, at least one listening session, I think perhaps more, and I know the rest of my team had more to hear from teachers both in favor of the guidance, and what it was helping them do in their school, and those who were opposed to it.

Those who were opposed said it was viewed very much as a mandate, that really was hamstringing them in many ways, and was in many ways making their schools less safe. The rescission of the guidance really was the result of a progression, not just the school safety commission work, although that was part.

We didn’t tie it to that. [the] administration tied it.

It was part [of a] number of the things we needed to look at. I hope that you’ve all taken a good look at the report itself. I think the report has ... I mean, it was a school safety commission. We were focused on advancing practices and approaches that different communities and states have used to address different issues, and to give educators and parents tools to consider for each of their school buildings.

It really is, school safety really is a very individualized issue based on the building, the nature ... where it’s located. A small school in rural Montana has very different considerations than one in the heart of Manhattan. We acknowledge that and we need to provide as many tools for local educators to consider in that process.

For the students that the discipline guidance was created for ... I heard from them that they just didn’t understand why it was being linked to Parkland ... it seems like that narrative just got intertwined in a way that didn’t make sense.

Well, I think it’s important to remember that the commission was established to study school safety. It was in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, but it wasn’t a focus on Parkland. It was really to talk about ways that educators and community should and may consider how to make sure that students are safe when they go to school, that teachers are safe when they go to school, and how to prevent these things in the future. Not to always be in the place of reacting to them.

I would just add that there are a lot of resources in that report that schools have been adopting, and are considering adopting. The PBIS approaches to ensuring that the culture that you create, and the environment that students come to school in is one that is nurturing and that is including. Students that are isolated are recognized as being such, and [steps are taken] to bring them in, instead of ignoring those facts.

On that topic of guidance. In various roles before this one, you’ve advocated on behalf of low-income and minority students, and gay and LGBTQ Americans. Yet under your leadership the department has reversed policy positions that clarified and encourage protections for these historically vulnerable populations, which has generated a lot of criticism and concern that the department may be eroding civil rights for these particular populations. Can you address that concern and tell us what it is that the department is looking to do when it takes these kinds of measures?

Well, let me just first say that I am, and we are at the department very committed to ensuring all students’ civil rights are protected. I’m also committed to following the law. I’m a first-born child, I’m a rule follower, and I do that regularly. I am not going to overstep and make law where there isn’t law. I think the things that you are referencing were overreaches, a part of the previous administration, they were protections on paper, frankly. They were not actual protections, and we need to be focused on what we need to do to make sure that each individual is treated and respected as an individual, and follow the laws as made by Congress or as clarified by the Supreme Court. I’m very committed to doing that, and to protecting all the students’ civil rights.

We also have another civil rights issue brewing in the court, and in the states. That is the issue of affirmative action, and race-conscious policies and diversifying K-12 and higher education spaces. You’ve said affirmative action is settled law. ... Where does the department stand on this? First of all, where do you stand on affirmative action? Do you believed that race-conscious policies have a place in diversifying K-12 schools and higher ed?

Again, I’m very committed to following the law, and the Supreme Court has clarified how and where race can, and should be considered in achieving diversity. I mean, I personally, I’m very supportive of environments that are diverse and different, that we have lots of people from different perspectives and backgrounds together, to learn or to do whatever job in a business setting.

Again, the previous administration had overreached and gone past what the Supreme Court had clarified and opined on. We were committed to, again, following the law, and staying within the bounds of the law. If the law changes or is expanded, I’m committed to supporting and following that. I would just say, before the Supreme Court had further clarified and opined on affirmative action policies, there was an initiative in Michigan, a number of years ago, when I was actually state party chairman--

Yeah, you defeated ... You did.

That I actually supported the affirmative action side of the equation, and I continue to believe that until students at the K-12 level are given the kind of freedom to choose the right school for them, that the results of ... What the K12 system is producing is not fair. It’s not fair to too many students. That is one of the other core reasons I’ve continued to advocate for education freedom for all students, regardless of their economic situation.

For higher ed, I have just two quick questions. A lot of the conversation around accountability at the department has been around the for-profit sector. Yet, we have private and nonprofit schools finding themselves, or more traditional higher education institutions embroiled in their own scandals right now. I’d love to get your thoughts on how the admissions’ scandal that is still evolving, it’s factoring into the conversations around accountability at the department.

Well, I think the admissions issue is a very serious one. I think it underscores what many people feel that the system is not fair. It goes back to the fact that, or the reality that we should expect accountability and transparency for every institution. Not just based on the tax status of the institution. There’s been a lot of writing, a lot of criticism around ... schools that are organized as a for-profit entity, and yet very little has been really investigated, and opined upon with regard to schools that are more elite in their student population.

You cannot look at higher ed institutions across the board and act as though they are all serving students the same way, and in the same kind of approach. It’s important to remember that many of the for-profit institutions, and others that ... are open-enrollment schools, community colleges, some HBCUs, they are taking students that might not have an option or an opportunity somewhere else.

We should be expecting the best and continually improving results from every kind of institution, and stay focused on the fact that students need to have a wide range of choices to meet their individual needs, and the fact, again, that arguably higher ed at large has not really kept up with the 21st century demands in the marketplace.

I have to ask this because it involves humans. I think you’ve been very aggressive on the higher ed front through regulation. ... I think the group that has been most immediately impacted by your higher education policies are the student borrowers, who are waiting for relief as you all figure out whether or not they’ve been defrauded by their schools. Is there any update on when these students or these borrowers could see that?

Let’s just put that in context a little bit. Between 1995 and 2016, there were fewer than 100 borrower defense cases brought to the department. The last administration took a phrase out of the higher ed act, and two other words, “gainful employment,” and did a whole lot of creative lawyering, and came up with regulations that they left, and had no framework for, from the borrower defense side.

When I arrived in my job, there were tens of thousands of borrower defense claims that there was no framework for, or process for even considering how to consider them. We did so, we’ve developed an approach. Many of the borrower defense claims are in abeyance today, because of a court case that is pending around those.

You can’t just send them out?

That would not be right or fair to them, or to the taxpayer. We are committed again to doing things the right way. The borrowers that are part of close school discharge, we are working through those, and discharging them. For those that simply don’t qualify, we are notifying them, that there is this universe of those who’ve made claims that are caught in a court case right now.

We are going to open the floor for questions. Just a few rules. We’ll take questions from working journalists first. We’d like you to keep them brief, and to a question. If you can introduce yourself and say where you are from, that would be great.

Tyler Kincaid: I’m a freelance journalist. On Title IX regulations, outside of the 2017 daylong summit of listening sessions you held, have you had any other meetings with sexual assault survivors, or students who said that they were accused of assault?

I personally have not had another formal session, but I have definitely heard from a number of other individuals. Yes. I would just say also that there are many others on my team and in the department that have also listened to, and taken lots of information in in that process.

Sharon Lurye, from the Teacher Project at Columbia University: My question is about vouchers. Recently, a study on the voucher program in Louisiana found that it led to sustained losses in math achievement for students participating in the program, which lasted a number of years. This is on top of several other studies on voucher programs in different states, which have found similar results. My question for you is, does this research make you rethink your stance on vouchers at all, and how do you respond to this research?

Well, thanks for the question about Louisiana. I would just say that the Louisiana program was not very well conceived. It has discouraged many schools from participating in it, and in fact has encouraged some schools that probably would not have been parents’ first choices if they’d been given a full range of choices.

With reference to ... the other research around the results from vouchers or tax credits or any other mechanism to provide education choice: We see consistently that in the vast majority of cases, student achievement continues to improve. That has been observed across the board, especially in states where programs have been well conceived, and well constructed. I would also say that very often, we get focused on academic outcomes exclusively. Often parents make choices for other reasons. I think we should probably enter those sorts of conversations into the greater equation as well, considering the fact that parents may have a range of choices, or a range of reasons for making the choice that they do for their child.

Matt Barnum from Chalkbeat: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today Secretary DeVos. As you know, President Trump has prioritized restricting unauthorized immigration, and he’s also rescinded DACA, and he’s made a number of anti-immigrant statements. Relatedly, in a recent school choice program passed in Tennessee, which you supported, legislators there attempted to restrict access to undocumented immigrant children. I’m wondering if you see a tension between working in and supporting this administration, and supporting all students in public schools. I’m wondering your thoughts on the Tennessee program, that aspect in particular. Thanks.

Thank you Matt. First of all, I’m thrilled that Tennessee has passed a program that’s going to really meet a lot of students’ needs that haven’t been able to make choices before. With respect to the issue that you’ve raised. I acknowledge, it’s a difficult issue. I think our president is right. We have a crisis. We have concerns. This is a matter for Congress to deal with in a way that’s meaningful, not to continue to ignore it.

With regard to students who are here in our country: Every state, every community is embracing them, and acknowledging that they have the opportunity to learn along with the students who are part of this country.

Barnum: Do you support the Tennessee provision in particular to restrict undocumented students?

I don’t think that ended up as part of the final, in the program, did it?

Barnum: Not explicitly, but it’s my understanding that it would implicitly restrict those students, yes.

Well, I think that’s a matter for Tennessee to debate. That is ... I can’t comment on a hypothetical. If it’s not part of the program, it’s not part of the program.

Craig Harris, Arizona Republic: Thank you again for coming today and speaking to us. In Arizona, charter schools are largely run by private companies or they are nonprofit or for profit companies. We found that an operator paid himself $10 milliion [in the] last few years, another charter operator who is a legislator sold his charter schools to a nonprofit company he created, making $14 million. Another nonprofit operator who is also a developer got no-bid contracts and made anywhere from $18- to $32 million in profit. Charter schools are very important to you and the president, but how do you feel about operators who are engaged in self-dealing and making a lot of personal profits on taxpayer funds?

Every state develops their own programs for governing charter schools, and how charter schools can operate. Every state will deal with those who run afoul of those laws. I applaud them when they do. We should not have any fraudulent activity. Whether that’s traditional public school, construction and operation, or any other kind of school.

I think what we should stay focused on is the fact that in New York City for example, there are more than 50,000 kids on charter school wait list. Nationally we have over a million kids on charter school wait list. There is a demand for more of these options, and we ought to be providing more of these options.

We have a five minute warning by the way.

Glynis Board, West Virginia Public Broadcasting: In West Virginia and in so many rural areas of the country, traumatized students ... It makes learning impossible, and it’s becoming a growing problem. There is just a huge and growing need for more mental health resources according to our teachers and people working. I’m just wondering, how is your department approaching, reacting to, and addressing the opioid crisis that’s just ravaging our rural areas, and I’m sure urban as well?

Well, thanks for that question. Administration-wide, we are very focused on eradicating this problem. We know that it’s a multifaceted problem and issue. Within the department, we have a number of grants that have been specifically directed around opioid abuse prevent, and early education to help students understand the dangers there.

There is only so much the federal department can do in that regard. We know, again, this is very much a community-by-community issue. To the extent that we can provide resources alongside what states and communities are doing to address this, we are committed to doing so because it’s very frightening in some communities the devastation that this has continued to wreak.

Jenny Abamu, WAMU, a local NPR station in the Washington area: I am asking a question about seclusion and restraint. You mentioned before Congress that the department was proactively working on issues of seclusion and restraint. Reporting done by myself and several other colleagues of mine showed that the current OCR data may be severely under-reported, and the department’s reliability and reliance on self-reporting and self checking is not working. First part is, how exactly is the department proactively working to address seclusion and restraint, and then how is the department working to address the data-quality issues in the OCR data?

Thanks for the question. This is actually a joint effort ... to proactively audit a number of states and districts where it does appear that the numbers don’t add up, and to do so with the encouragement that districts will actually come to understand.

The other part of the joint effort is providing technical assistance to states and to districts to know what their obligations are and how they need to be approaching this requirement. Our hope is that by proactively going and auditing a few places where things don’t seem to add up, and then helping inform and educate that we will have a much more cohesive approach to ensuring that every child is safe at school and respected for the individual they are.

Hi, I’m Chastity Pratt from Bridge Magazine in Detroit, your home state, where you successfully advocated for widespread freedom of choice: No place has been more impacted by that than Detroit, where for 25 years has been widespread school choice. Most kids there take advantage of it, but data show that we have the worst-performing charter schools, and traditional schools. My question is, why haven’t you visited a school in Detroit to talk to families about that dichotomy?

I actually visited a number of schools before I took this job. ... I worked in Michigan a long, long time, and will continue to advocate for Michigan, and for opportunities for all students. I would just clarify a little bit, because you said [there] has been wide-open choice. The reality is, Michigan doesn’t have wide-open choice. Michigan only has the opportunity to offer charter schools. In my book, that’s one step toward choice, but that’s not education freedom. I’m hopeful that in the foreseeable future, Michigan and all the other states that are precluded today, because of something called the Blaine Amendment, will ultimately be able to offer the kind of freedom to all students, and the multitude of options to all students that states like Florida, and Indiana, and Ohio, and Wisconsin, and Georgia, and Arizona, just to name a few, have been able to offer.

Green: Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you would like to address with this particular group? These are all the folks who cover you and your policies. Any stories that you think were missing, or that you would recommend we look into?

I think one thing that occurs to me is, I know that many of you cover your states and communities. I just want to encourage you all, because what you do to help support students and families in the areas that you work is important. It’s really critical to continue to have the kind of information brought forward at the local level that’s useful to families. I just wanted to encourage you in that and thank you for the work that you do.

Green: Wildcard question: about the special Olympics ... I’m totally kidding. You have not resigned despite so many rumors of such a thing happening. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the election next year. Would you sign on for four more years if asked?

I’m not sure my husband would be OK with that.

Anything else you’d like to add?

No. Just thanks for this opportunity Erica.

Thank you. We hope you come back.

Thank you all for what you do, and thanks for welcoming me here today. I could tell you lots of stories about my school visits across the country, and the wonderful things that I’m seeing. I think one key among the learnings is every community, every region is different, has different needs, has different opportunities. It just continues to underscore the fact that a one-size-fits-all system and approach doesn’t work, and it can’t work, and it won’t work for the 21st century and our future.

I hope that you will be part of continuing to advocate for the kind of change that we need to offer all students. All students regardless of their race, regardless of their family income, regardless of their address, an equal opportunity to get a great education, and to become a meaningful and contributory part of our future collectively.

Green:Thank you so much Secretary DeVos.

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