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Betsy DeVos Heads Northwest, Faces Chilly Reception

By Alyson Klein — October 11, 2017 2 min read
Protesters decry Devos’ support of charter schools and vouchers, marching to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Lincoln, Neb., as DeVos visited the Lincoln school system’s Science Focus Program/Zoo School.
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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is headed to Oregon and Washington state this week, but it looks like she won’t get a universally warm welcome. In fact, there’s a big protest brewing for Friday night, when DeVos will be the keynote speaker at a gala hosted by the Washington Policy Center, a free-market think tank. More below.

Wednesday, DeVos will visit McMinnville High School in McMinnville, Ore. “to see firsthand the innovative initiatives present in the McMinnville school district, particularly its STEM programs and teacher development techniques,” according to a department press release.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., a member of the House education committee who represents the district in Congress, said she “welcomes” the visit. She praised the school’s engineering and aerospace science academy, and its “healthy” school food program.

But she had some tough words for the secretary.

“As a relative newcomer to the world of public education, Secretary DeVos would do well to educate herself about the strengths and challenges of our diverse public education system,” Bonamici said. “Unfortunately, in her short tenure as head of the Education Department she has been focused on undermining our public schools, not strengthening them. She continues to advocate for privatizing public education, cutting education funding, and rolling back civil rights protections for students.”

And she wishes DeVos would come back to testify before Congress. Typically, the education secretary appears before the spending and policy committees to talk about their budget. But DeVos only spoke to the panels that oversee spending. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also wondered aloud at a recent hearing why DeVos hasn’t been before the Senate education committee.

Meanwhile, thousands could show up to hear—or protest—DeVos’s appearance at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, Wash., the Seattle Times reported. Nearly 800 people said on a Facebook page that they were planning to show up at a “counter rally” organized in part by The Education Equity Coalition, a Seattle based nonprofit. The protestors have already held sign-making parties, and are psyched that the city has already announced some road closures.

“We’re one of the farthest cities from Washington, D.C., but we feel the ripples of the policy changes just as much as they would be felt in D.C.,” said Sharonne Navas, an organizer of the rally told the Seattle Times. “It’s time for [DeVos] to understand that the Seattle area will stand by its progressive ideology.”

We wrote earlier this week about how it can be tough for DeVos to get her message out with so many protestors showing up to her events. Read more on that here.

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