Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Monday that the Trump administration will spearhead a historic school-choice initiative aimed at a “transformation” of the nation’s “closed and antiquated education system.”
“The president is proposing the most ambitious expansion of education choice in our nation’s history,” said Ms. DeVos at a speech in Indianapolis before the American Federation for Children, which she previously chaired.
“The proposal’s aim is to empower states and give leaders like [Indiana] Gov. Eric Holcomb the flexibility and opportunity to enhance the choices Indiana provides for Indiana students,” she said.
Ms. DeVos revealed few details, telling reporters that the “specifics of how that will be accomplished remain to be seen,” but said the emphasis would be on “empowering states to make those decisions.”
“We must acknowledge that the future is bleak for millions of students if we only continue to tinker around the edges with education reform,” she said in her remarks. “We’ve had 30 years of ‘reform.’ And while we celebrate the progress that has been made, each year there are still far too many kids falling through the cracks.”
More specifics are expected to be included in President Trump’s budget proposal, which leaked out late Monday but is slated to be officially unveiled Tuesday.
“The time has expired for ‘reform,’” Ms. DeVos said. “We need a transformation—a transformation that will open up America’s closed and antiquated education system.”
Protesters follow Ms. DeVos wherever she goes, and her Indiana appearance was no exception. The state teachers’ union held a rally prior to her speech objecting to her school-choice agenda.
“We will not sit back and be quiet as public schools in Indiana and nationwide are threatened,” said Teresa Meredith, Indiana State Teacher’s Association president, on Fox59.
Ms. DeVos said that state participation in the school-choice proposal would be optional, but that states refusing to do so would hurt the very children who need it the most.
“If a state doesn’t want to participate, that would be a terrible mistake on their part,” said Ms. DeVos. “They will be hurting the children and families who can least afford it. If politicians in a state block education choice, it means those politicians do not support equal opportunity for all kids.”
She added, “They’ll be the ones who will have to explain to their constituent parents why they are denying their fundamental right to choose what type of education is best for their child.”
Her remarks came during the AFC’s national policy summit, which drew about 400 attendees and showcased students who had benefited from school-choice opportunities.
Ms. DeVos was introduced by Denisha Merriweather, who used a tax-credit scholarship from Florida’s Step Up for Students program to help her attend a church-affiliated private school. She has since earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of South Florida.
“Millions of families are currently benefiting from choice programs, and millions more stand to benefit from having further educational options for their child,” said AFC chairman Bill Oberndorf in a statement. “We look forward to more details about the school choice proposals and, ultimately, hope to see a federal education tax credit included in broader tax reform later this year.”
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