DeVos a no-show at education writers seminar, but her policies take center stage

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declined to speak to the Education Writers Association. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos didn’t have a hectic schedule this week, but that didn’t stop her from declining to address the more than 300 journalists three miles down the road at the Education Writers Association National Seminar. Her Wednesday schedule showed a meeting with the president of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and a phone chat with her Mexican counterpart.

Prior education secretaries made a point to attend the annual gathering of the print, radio and TV reporters who cover schools and education policy. (DeVos’ predecessor John King will return today to the EWA event to discuss disparities in school funding.)

Those previous ed secretaries didn’t spark a political battle so heated that confirmation required an unprecedented tie-breaking vote by the vice president. Unlike DeVos, other secretaries weren’t blocked by protesters in their first official visit to a K-12 public school or met with turned backs at their first commencement speech.

Since she assumed the post in February, DeVos has rebuffed one-on-one interviews with reporters. She probably wasn’t keen on joining a fleet of them — including me and two other Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalists — on the nearby Georgetown University campus. Apparently, a free tote bag and EWA water bottle didn’t sway her, either.

Despite her absence at the seminar, DeVos merited a fair amount of attention from guest speakers, mostly around her push to expand school choice and vouchers.

“The question being posed by the DeVos/Trump administration is whether public education is a public good anymore and the foundation to a democracy,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Or is it a commodity that can be bought and sold in an unregulated market?”

Weingarten made her remarks on a spirited panel on education politics in the era of Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos. While the conservative and liberal policy experts on the panel clashed on school choice and vouchers, they agreed Republican control of the White House and both chambers of Congress did not necessarily assure expanded choice.

“There is not overwhelming Republican support to expand school choice from Washington,” said panelist Martin West, deputy director of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.

Panelist Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation explained her organization’s reservations about federal choice dictates. “I spend my waking hours thinking about how to advance school choice, but is it appropriate for the federal government to be engaged in a widespread push via a new program? We have a fair amount to risk by engaging in a new, large-scale federal program when states are doing it on their own already. We see states adopting new school choice options.”

Another panel delved into the proposed federal education budget and what it implied about the White House’s commitment to choice. During the campaign, Trump promised $20 billion to expand choice and vouchers. But the Education Innovation and Research program in his budget to study and expand private school vouchers falls short of that.

“What did surprise me was there is only $250 million set aside in this Education Innovation and Research program to fund vouchers and research into vouchers. I expected a lot more,” said Samuel Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. “I was thinking something more along the lines of Race to the Top where Obama allocated $4.35 billion in 2009.”

Robert C. Enlow, president and CEO of EdChoice, said the angst over the federal education budget was overblown since federal spending represents only 9 to 11 percent of the total spent on schools.

“The reality is that when the budget goes to Congress, it is not going to withstand the pressure,” said Enlow. “No budget from a president ever goes over unscathed and remains unscathed. We have a lot questions to answer about the budget. What do these proposals look like in detail? Right now we are spending a lot of time arguing about the ideology behind the proposals rather than the actual proposals themselves.”

Reader Comments 0

42 comments
Buttercup23
Buttercup23

No taxpayer monies should be going to private, for-profit or religious schools(separation of church and state).  This is what DeVos is proposing in her budget.  We already have school choice in almost every state.  Those parents that so choose to send their children to private schools have always had that choice.  In DeVos's budget, she expects the taxpayers to pay for private education for those who can well afford to pay for that private education on their own.  What is "for profit charter schools" doing in her budget???  So she wants the taxpayers to now fund those for-profit charters- K-12's!  NO NO NO.  DeVos also has in her budget, for those heading to college, to pay a 121/2% interest rate for their school loans, is she NUTS!  Almost everything in her budget sucks money away from Public Education.  It's as if she wants to destroy Public Education in this country!  Guess what, that's exactly what she wants IMHO.

Bolt From The Blue
Bolt From The Blue

Maybe Betsy can come up with a plan to get Karen Handel her GED.

JROLL1
JROLL1

NO COLLEGE EDUCATION FOR THIS DIMWIT! NUFF SAID!

WW5
WW5

the woman gets booed when she shows up and when she doesn't.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

@WW5 When the fascists start getting cheered and democracy is denounced, then we know the 'cleansing' has begun - no more food, no more healthcare, no more clean water - 'Guns Everywhere' - welcome to Trumpland.

alt.AJC
alt.AJC

@Ralph-43 @WW5 

Perhaps there's a squalid website elsewhere that would welcome your sort of ignorant rant.

creative
creative

The chiiiiiiiiiillllllldren.... I believe they are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show us all the beauty that they have inside. Let's keep doing things the way we have been doing it. It's clearly working. If we can just get over the hump of having schools with zero money. I for one am glad that black kids have to go to terrible schools. Your parents zip code should reflect whether you go to a decent school. You should have chosen to be born to different parents that didn't want to live in the lithonia school district. Good. Also I think we should continue teaching kids to memorize capitols and times tables. Also F$&@ dads. They are useless and only get in the way. Now back to the car advertisment with the 4 best friends...one white guy, one black guy, one Asian guy, and one Hispanic guy. The white guy is the dumb one, obviously. Things are getting better. Let's stay the course, and make sure all students have access to libraries and iPads and everything will work out. Oh also, let's keep adding administrators...that's always helpful. The inner city white families that that love government so much send their kids to Paidea for 20k a year to learn that school choice is racaist. Someone que the Louis Armstrong wonderful world or electric six gay bar.....

MoreySims
MoreySims

Betsy's a billionaire---she doesn't have a lot of time for seminars on writing---too many places to visit and tour with all that money!

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

The bottom line to DeVos' proposal has little to do with money.  However, she knows she can energize the anti-tax anarchists by suggesting that tax money should be 'diverted' and, perhaps, reduced.  DeVos has plenty of money from her AMWAY in-laws and was excited by the Trump-Bannon-Sessions' 'White Power' 'Christian' movement.  Her real proposal is that schools require an 'application' for admission.  This allows each school to cherry pick an all 'White' class.  Ends accomplished. Will she defend this position in front of an educated group of American reporters?  Of course not.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

There are no failing schools. Think of a school as a group of students. Other group names are, family, household, neighborhood, community, school system, county, state, country, etc. Is GA a failing educational state?


The "failing school" is a lie: a myth to usher one into a conversation about school privatization. It's as if someone falsely called you a criminal and asked you if you wanted to be able to choose your defense attorney with other people's tax money.


Don't fall for the "failing schools" myth. It is a ploy for greedy people to get free tax money from others because they are too lazy to plan for, and provide the educational environment they want for their kids. The republicans want tax payer provided private schools for the rich but not tax payer provided healthcare for the working class. 


alt.AJC
alt.AJC

@AvgGeorgian 

If there are no failing schools then there's no reason to fear parental choice. 

jaggar1
jaggar1

We already offer school choice in Georgia. What you want is money to send your child to private school.

Milo
Milo

@AvgGeorgian

Sorry, a school full of failing teachers is a failing school. Spin it anyway you want, people want out. 

JoeWisenbaker
JoeWisenbaker

I have no problem with school choice - we already have a free market through which it is available. It's called private schools. Let that market alone - not infused with my tax dollars!

Astropig
Astropig

@JoeWisenbaker


It's not just your tax dollars.We all pay into the pot and we all get some small say in how it is used.If enough people want that money to be used to empower parents and enable choice,then you'll have to agree or opt out of the system somehow.

Grob_Hahn
Grob_Hahn

How is she a "No show" if she never planned to go?  What a self-serving headline.  How can we trust such "journalism" when the slant is so obvious.  Clearly the children are STILL in last place with regard to public education.  

Astropig
Astropig

@Grob_Hahn


Good point. Such "journalism" is melting like an ice cream cone on a sidewalk in July.


I saw the other day that one of the largest newsprint plants in north America is shutting down (in Calhoun Tennessee) because demand has fallen by over half in the last 10 years.The New York Times is offering buyouts to editors. You'd think that every reader was important to the legacy press at this point,but I guess that it's not.

bu22
bu22

@jaggar1 Well Democrats didn't used to be such nuts that the Education Secretary needs Secret Service protection.  Those points Maureen makes are a terrible reflection on the Democrats.

jaggar1
jaggar1

She is titled a No Show because every other person in her position was not afraid to stand up for their beliefs and the decisions they made for the best of the children. Devos will not show to anything because she is not qualified for the job and can't answer any questions without sounding incompetent.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

"“The question being posed by the DeVos/Trump administration is whether public education is a public good anymore and the foundation to a democracy,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Or is it a commodity that can be bought and sold in an unregulated market?”"


Sorta ironic coming from the president of the AFT, one of hundreds [thousands] of organizations who line up to the public education trough like pigs to slop.

JohnGMorris
JohnGMorris

It is, in my opinion, a twisted logic that finds in DeVos' words a desire to undermine the notion of education as a public good.  There is, however, little doubt that she wishes to undermine the status quo, a status quo that on the one hand spectacularly fails to deliver the promise of an education to many students and on the other hand erects barriers that trap students in failing institutions. The status quo just tells us to wait, but that is little consolation to the parent that sends their child to kindergarten once, just once.  With education there are no do overs, there is just time well used or time and opportunities lost.  Whether DeVos' solutions are sound or not is worthy of debate, but what these solutions seek to do more than anything else is tear down the wall that traps many students in failing schools and end the waiting for the turnaround that may never come or comes too late.  Truly, education is a public good, but Weingarten's status quo is content to try and fail to deliver on that promise -- a policy where "it is the thought that counts." In Weingarten's world students are expendable. 

jaggar1
jaggar1

Schools don't fail. It is the students who fail because they have failing parents. Look at where your failing schools are located and that will explain the reasons. Teachers work for long hours with low pay because they want children to learn. The US is headed toward a system like Brazil where the government refuses to fund public education. Those children who can't afford private school only attend school 4 hours a day. All of you bashing public school will put our system in the toilet. It is parents who fail their children by not making education a priority. Change the communities priorities and you would have all schools doing well. Entitlement of Medicaid has created this issue by the taxpayers paying for 49% of babies born last year in the US to women who can't afford them. It is the cycle of poverty that the US has created which equates to a failing child.

bu22
bu22

@jaggar1 Never heard of Beverly Hall?  Numerous total disasters in APS under her watch.

jaggar1
jaggar1

@bu22 @jaggar1 Yes, she bullied her staff into cheating because there was no way to improve the test scores with the population. The government has decided that if students choose not to study or pass tests, they will penalize the school. The current APS superintendent has stated many times that APS will continue to have failing schools because of the community and population. She clearly knows that until the mind set of the parents changes and the community begins to value education, there is nothing anyone can do to help. The government has put in place a CCRPI score for each school which is a punitive tool. The schools have all but stopped disciplining students because the schools have points taken away. It's ridiculous

time for reform
time for reform

Can't imagine a seminar of frustrated Hillary voters and their teachers' union handlers offered much of interest to Secretary DeVos. 

Or to the rest of America for that matter.

The reasons for plummeting newspaper circulation include a continuing refusal of liberal editors to balance coverage to better serve a far more conservative reading (and voting) public.

Something not lost on the Secretary.

Astropig
Astropig

She doesn't have to bow and scrape before the media and try to win them over.She (and a lot of other people) know that the legacy media is becoming more and more irrelevant to any public policy debate.She can safely ignore them because the media stands lower in the public's trust than even politicians.


I don't blame her a bit.She doesn't need the media to get her message out anymore.I saw an article (on Drudge) that newspaper circulation is at some multi-generational low these days.


As you can probably discern from the above,it seems to bother the media that she won't cooperate in their little news production/opinion shaping game.


Bravo, Betsy!

kavaba
kavaba

@Astropig If you are reading Drudge that's all anyone needs to know.  Talk about your "news production/opinion shaping"...

Astropig
Astropig

@kavaba @Astropig


I sincerely apologize. I just didn't have the time to check in with you and see what is "acceptable" to read.I saw that article and just clicked without realizing what a mistake that I would be making.


Please forgive me! 

Alt AJC
Alt AJC

@Astropig 

Liberal newspaper editors bury unhelpful stories on page A18 for a reason. You're not intended to see them.

By posting those stories on his website Matt Drudge isn't playing fair!

Astropig
Astropig

@Alt AJC @Astropig


The above comment (kavaba) shows just what the world would be like if liberals little control fantasies ever came true-we'd only be able to read the "right" kind of news that makes liberals happy.


Thank God that we have choice in media,even if we don't have enough choice in education.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @Alt AJC

You confuse an opinion based on your news gathering with a liberal effort to stop free speech. Strange.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

There is choice in education. There exists quite a few avenues to educate our children; public school is the only option to educate almost anyone who enters its doors no matter the background of parent or child.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

It is clear to me that the majority of Americans support Public Education and are mostly confused regarding the changes DeVos is proposing.  However, there is a small far right wing anti-tax group that supports DeVos' proposal to create an uneducated lower class to serve as low paid servants (slaves).  I am sure DeVos has no intention of defending this position in front of educated newspaper columnists. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

" 'The question being posed by DeVos/Trump administration is whether public education is a public good anymore and the foundation to a democracy,' said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. 'Or is it a commodity that can be bought and sold in an unregulated market?' "

-------------------------

This is the fundamental educational question with which each American must come to terms.

I have doubt, whatsoever, that public education must never become a commodity that is bought and sold in a mercenary and profit-centered financial marketplace.

Public education must remain a service profession that serves the common good and gives every child the opportunity to meet his or her potential within a nurturing environment.