INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Acknowledging the task won’t be easy, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos promised a historic proposal Monday to expand school choice nationwide.
“The president is proposing the most ambitious expansion of education choice in our nation’s history,” DeVos said during an address before the American Federation of Children’s policy summit downtown. “The proposal’s aim is to empower states and give leaders like Gov. Eric Holcomb the flexibility and opportunity to enhance the choice Indiana provides for Indiana students.”
DeVos’ speech comes one day ahead of President Trump’s budget proposal where it’s anticipated the framework will lie for Congress to take action.
“The budget broadly is going to focus on what works for students,” DeVos said in an interview with CBS4, declining to offer specifics on how the federal funds would be used.
Before a friendly crowd, and organization she once chaired, DeVos used terms like “transformation,” telling the group the time for simple “reform” had expired.
“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.
DeVos’ visit, like has been seen in cities across the country, was greeted with protests.
The Indiana State Teacher’s Association organized a rally beforehand where President Teresa Meredith attacked DeVos’ credentials, saying she “lacks the awareness and understanding of even the most basic education issues.”
“We will not sit back and be quiet as public schools in Indiana and nationwide are threatened,” Meredith said.
While praising Indiana for having one of the largest and fastest growing voucher programs in the country, DeVos said ultimately the decisions will rest with each state, critical of any "new federal bureaucracy or by bribing states with their own taxpayers’ money.”
“If a state doesn’t want to participate, that would be a terrible mistake on their part,” she said. “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. 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.”
But when pressed, DeVos wouldn’t say yet whether or how states would be incentivized or punished based on a decision to expand school choice or not, or what would quality under any new federal guidelines as an expansion at all.
“The specifics of how that will be accomplished remain to be seen,” she said. “But we’re going to be talking about the necessity about really empowering states in a big way to make this decision.”