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Betsy DeVos Emphasizes Choice and Flexibility to State Education Leaders

Washington

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos delivered what's become her standard prescription for K-12 education—school choice, state flexibility, and rollback of federal intrusion—to a roomful of state school board members gathered for a legislative conference here Monday. 

"Common sense doesn't win out in Washington," she said to members of the National Association of State Boards of Education. "The [U.S. Department of Education] has created roadblocks for states in the past, and it's not right or acceptable. It's time for the department to get out of the way to let you do your job."   

Her remarks came just weeks before states' first due date for submitting accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act that will guide state education policy and the distribution of millions of federal dollars to public schools in the coming years. 

In recent weeks, Congress has repealed crucial regulations under ESSA and the Education Department has drafted a new ESSA application for state agencies that asks fewer questions about states' policy proposals.  

State officials have raised concern about, without regulations, how fairly the plans will be vetted by the department once they're submitted.  

DeVos, who was to address state education chiefs at a concurrent conference later Monday, gave a speech that lasted fewer than 10 minutes and took no questions from more than 100 state board members representing almost every state. 

DeVos, a billionaire Michigander, started out her speech at the Loews Madison Hotel referring to her husband Richard Marvin "Dick" DeVos Jr.'s tenure on the Michigan state board of education and her mentoring of low-income youth who took advantage of school choice laws in Michigan and Florida.  

She said in the coming months, she will assure that the Education Department stays out of the way of parents choosing what school is best for their child, how teachers teach in the classroom, and what state officials decide is best for their states. 

Click for more coverage of parent engagement in schools.

She said President Donald Trump's recently proposed budget, which would reduce federal Education Department spending by 13 percent and increase money for charter schools and other forms of school choice, reflects those purposes. And she said the revised ESSA application asks only what the Education Department needs to know in order to assure states uphold the spirit of the ESSA law.

"I expect states' approaches to be as varied as the students they serve," she said.

DeVos, who showed up a few minutes late, was greeted with a standing ovation, but her quick exit drew audible murmuring about all the things DeVos did not address including what the peer review process will look like, what sort of guidance and support the department will provide state departments and the effects vouchers and charter schools will have on traditional public schools.  


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