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Betsy DeVos: Lack of Civics Education Draws Students to Ideas Like Socialism


U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that socialism may be on the rise among young voters because they aren't getting a strong foundation in civics and government at the K-12 level.

Students are "coming into higher education without the background to even know and understand competing ideas and without the ability to discuss and debate them," DeVos said in response to a question about the trend from Robert Bluey, the vice president for communications at Heritage Foundation, in an interview on the conservative think tank's Daily Signal podcast.

DeVos also talked about implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is in full swing this year. She said that Democrats who wrote the law and the Obama administration were "counting on Hillary [Clinton] being in the White House, because they and the previous administrations wrote a whole bunch of regulations that were going to place overreach burdens on states. So that was all rolled back, rescinded right at the start of this administration."

And she said that her administration is urging states and districts to take advantage of the flexibilities in the law. So far, few states have moved on ESSA's testing leeway, and not many districts have embraced a pilot program allowing them to combine federal, state, and local dollars into a single funding stream tied to individual students.

DeVos said her department has produced a "parent guide" to help families better understand the law so that they can have an influence on its implementation. The guide came out after all 50 state ESSA plans had been approved by the department, but parents may be able to influence how districts fix low-performing schools.

Bluey asked DeVos what's next for her school choice agenda. So far, congressional Republicans have yet to bite on the administration's pitch for a private school voucher program or allowing public funds to follow students to the school of their choice.

DeVos touted the administration's successful push to allow families to use 529 college-savings plans for private schools. And she said that much of the action on choice has been at the state level.

"We are continuing to look at ways to complement what the states are doing," she said. "States need to take the lead on this."

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos listens to a question during a student town hall at National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Sept. 17.

--Matt Rourke/AP

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