Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the president of the American Federation of Teachers will meet up Thursday to visit a public school district in Van Wert, Ohio.
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While it may sound like an odd-couple meeting, according to Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers union that represents 1.6 million, she requested that DeVos get the invite as she hopes the visit will change the Education secretary’s opinion of public schools.
“Look, she has made no secret up until this job, that she thought public schools were a dead end and she has worked as a lobbyist for two decades to dismantle them and defund them,” Weingarten told FOX Business.
Weingarten says she invited DeVos to Van Wert, a small rural town about 40 miles south of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in January (even before DeVos was officially confirmed) because she wanted to show President Trump’s pick for Education chief how much this community "really loves" their public school district.
“This is a district that needs resources to do the things that they have been doing to create opportunities for students, and it is very much a poster child about how money matters and how public education matters -- and it crosses party lines too. Republicans feel as firmly about public education in this district as the Democrats do,” she said.
Van Wert City Schools Superintendent Ken Amstutz tells FOX Business that one of the reasons DeVos probably accepted their invitation is because their county is “very Republican.”
“It’s definitely an area, she would feel comfortable coming too,” Amstutz said. “We are going to have her meet some teachers and kids and really give her an idea of what goes on in our building.”
Amstutz says he hopes DeVos’ visit will clear up any misception that she may have about public schools, especially compared to private.
“It’s quite the contrary in our district. We are doing things well and we are doing a lot [of innovative] things too. We are also doing a lot of things for our special needs kids. We are pretty much in my mind ahead of the game,” he says. “We have kids [who] come from homes that are in some cases dysfunctional and in some cases economically at a disadvantage. We don’t get kids that are always ready to learn when they walk into our doors. They aren’t beaming to get an education. Sometimes, it’s just survival in what we are doing.”
Earlier this month, DeVos released a statement saying she is looking forward to visiting the students, parents and educators of Van Wert.
“Every parent should be able to send their children to a school that meets their unique needs, and for many parents, that is a public school,” DeVos said in a statement.
However in 2015, DeVos gave a speech at the SXSWedu convention, where she seemed to call for disruption of the country’s education system.
“We are the beneficiaries of start-ups, ventures, and innovation in every other area of life, but we don’t have that in education because it’s a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market. It’s a monopoly, a dead end. And the best and brightest innovators and risk-takers steer way clear of it. As long as education remains a closed system, we will never see the education equivalents of Google, Facebook, Amazon, PayPal, Wikipedia, or Uber,” DeVos said at the time.
According to Trump’s proposed 2018 education budget, the new administration calls for an increase in federal spending on school choice programs by $1.4 billion, and will eventually reach an annual total of $20 billion. The budget also proposes a $168 million increase for charter schools, $250 million for a new private school choice programs, and a $1 billion increase for Title I to encourage school districts to adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment that enables Federal, State, and local funding to follow a student to the public school of his or her choice.