Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 17
TRANSITION UPDATE: TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
Trump listens as U.S.
DeVos speaks during
a meeting with
parents and teachers
at the White House
Feb. 14. The event,
which included a mix
of public, private, and
and educators, was
the first joint
Trump and DeVos
since she was sworn
in after a bruising
By Alyson Klein
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
kicked off her ﬁrst public speech by casting
protesters who had attempted to block her
from visiting a District of Columbia middle
school as part of a divisive opposition that's
resistant to fresh ideas.
"By keeping kids in and new thinking out,
[the] incident demonstrates just how hostile
some people are to change and to new ideas,"
she said in a roughly seven-minute speech at
the Magnet Schools of America conference in
downtown Washington Feb. 15, the week after
the protest incident.
"Without realizing it, we, too, can fall victim
to this trap of seeing our work in education as
an 'us vs. them' approach. ... These silos are
unnecessary and unproductive in our common
goal to serve all students."
DeVos went on to praise magnet schools,
which are public schools organized around
a particular subject area such as the arts or
technology, as "the original school choice option." She gave a shoutout to City High Middle
School, a magnet school in her hometown of
Grand Rapids, Mich. (The DeVos family has
helped ﬁnance some of the Grand Rapids district's programs, including its theme schools.)
"Let's also celebrate the fact that there are
more than 2.6 million students beneﬁting
from attending 3,285 magnet schools," she
said, citing National Center for Education
Statistics ﬁgures from the 2014-15 school year,
the most recent NCES data available.
A fact sheet distributed by the Magnet
Schools of America shows an even bigger footprint, reporting that there are 4,340 magnet
schools, serving nearly 3.5 million students
In a short question-and-answer period
with DeVos after the speech, Todd Mann, the
group's executive director, noted that magnet schools lag behind charter schools when
it comes to federal funding. Magnets are
currently receiving about $96 million a year,
compared with charters, which get about $333
million from the federal government.
DeVos wouldn't commit to asking for more
money for magnets. "I think all great schools
should be highlighted and should be supported," she said. "That said, I don't think we
should be as focused necessarily on funding
school buildings, as much as we should be
having conversations about funding students.
If students are funded at the appropriate levels and equally, and they're making choices to
go to schools like magnet schools, you all are
doing a tremendous job."
Feeling Slighted, D.C. Teachers
Blast Secretary of Education
Meanwhile, the education secretary's ﬁrst visit to
a public school-her Feb. 10 tour of the District of
Columbia's Jefferson Middle School Academy, where
the protesters tried to keep her out-continued to
generate some awkward headlines for DeVos.
After visiting with teachers and school leaders
at Jefferson, DeVos pronounced it "awesome."
But in a subsequent interview with conservative
syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, she also
described her visit this way:
"I ... met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere
teachers who pour their heart and soul into their
classrooms and their students. ... But I can tell
Betsy DeVos Portrays Protesters
As Resistant to Change in K-12
the attitude is more of a 'receive mode.' They're
waiting to be told what they have to do, and that's
not going to bring success to an individual child.
You have to have teachers who are empowered to
facilitate great teaching."
Jefferson's teachers did not take kindly to the
secretary's contention that they're waiting to be
told what to do. And they ﬁred back at her on
Twitter Feb. 17.
'[Jefferson] teachers are not in a 'receive mode.'
Unless you mean we 'receive' students at a 2nd grade
level and move them to an 8th grade level," said one.
Even former District of Columbia Schools
Chancellor Kaya Henderson took to Twitter to
show her disapproval of DeVos' comments: "Sorry
lady. Tried to give you the beneﬁt of the doubt.
But this is so amateur and unprofessional that it's
astounding. We deserve better."
DeVos quickly jumped on Twitter and tried to
assuage the teachers' concerns. She said she was
simply trying to make the case that they need
to be "empowered" and freed from "government
dictates," although she wasn't speciﬁc about what
exactly she meant by that.
"Your teachers are awesome!" she replied, the
day after the tweetstorm. "They deserve MORE
freedom to innovate and help students."
Forge Ahead on ESSA Plans,
DeVos Tells State Schools Chiefs
The Obama administration's accountability
regulations for the Every Student Succeeds
Act have been put on pause by the Trump
administration, and they're on thin ice in Congress.
But the education secretary said in a letter last
month to state schools chiefs that she wants states
to keep going on their ESSA plans. And DeVos-as
she said she would at her conﬁrmation hearing-
is keeping in place the Obama administration's
timeline for submitting the plans, which includes
one early-bird deadline on April 3 and one later
deadline, on Sept. 18.
So far, 17 states plus the District of Columbia have
told the Education Department that they are shooting
to have their plans ready in time for the April date.
There's one twist though: The Obama
administration's accountability regulations-which
Congress appears likely to toss-include a template
for states to use as they build their ESSA plans.
DeVos and company have said they are reviewing
that template to make sure that it doesn't ask for
any information that isn't "absolutely necessary."
DeVos' department may release a new template for
states by mid-March.
And the secretary said the department may also
consider allowing a state or group of states to work
together to craft their own template through the
Council of Chief State School Ofﬁcers, as long as
such a template meets the requirements in the law.
Early Interviews With Ed. Sec.
Go to Friendly Media Forums
In her ﬁrst weeks in ofﬁce, DeVos appeared to focus
heavily on conservative outlets and media from her
home state of Michigan to get her public message
across, including on various areas of policy. The
s 4OLD 0AUL 7 3MITH A CONSERVATIVE RADIO
show host in Michigan, that her goal is to ensure that
all schools "meet the need of every child that they
serve, and in the cases that they don't, parents and
students should have other alternatives. ... All schools
should be great for the children that they serve."
s /PENED UP ABOUT HER ROCKY 3ENATE CONlRMATION
process in a print interview with Ingrid Jacques, the
deputy editorial-page editor at the Detroit News,
which endorsed her nomination.
s 'AVE A WIDE
RANGING INTERVIEW WITH &RANK