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DeVos, Philanthropist Heavyweights to Speak at Charter Schools Conference

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will be addressing the country's largest gathering of charter school leaders next week at the National Public Charter Schools Conference in Washington.

More than 4,000 charter school leaders, educators, advocates, and policymakers are expected to attend the annual gathering that's hosted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the nation's largest charter advocacy group.

According to a press release, DeVos will give prepared remarks on Tuesday morning followed by a Q&A session with a moderator and questions from the audience.

Although DeVos has long been a philanthropic supporter of school choice, including charter schools (her husband even founded a charter school in Michigan), many charter advocates are wary—and sometimes downright apocalyptic—about how the Trump administration's particular focus on charter schools could adversely affect the sector.

DeVos' appearance before the charter audience is not guaranteed to be a purely friendly one, as there will almost certainly be some vocal critics of the administration among the attendees.  

Many advocates are very protective of charter schools' status as a bipartisan issue, and the National Alliance underscored that in its press release announcing that DeVos will be addressing the conference.

"Secretary DeVos's participation in the National Charter Schools Conference continues a bipartisan tradition of having every sitting Department of Education Secretary since the conference's launch in 2000 appear at this premier annual gathering for the charter school movement," the release read.

The lineup for this year's conference includes a couple of other notable, philanthropic heavyweights, including Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix, and Marc Sternberg, the education program director for the Walton Family Foundation.

Also on tap during the conference: the prestigious Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, which honors high-performing charter networks that educate disadvantaged students, will be announced.

The Broad Prize is named for Eli and Edythe Broad, another set of billionaire donors to the charter school cause.

This year's finalists for the award are DDST Public Schools in Colorado, Harmony Public Schools in Texas, and Success Academy Charter Schools in New York. You can read more about the finalists here

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Photo: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos addresses the Council of the Great City Schools Annual Legislative Policy Conference in Washington on March 13.  —Jose Luis Magana/AP

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