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Betsy DeVos to Speak at Urban School Leaders' Legislative Conference

UPDATED

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is expected to address superintendents and school board members from the country's largest school systems on Monday in Washington, D.C.

DeVos' luncheon address at the Council of the Great City Schools' annual legislative and policy conference will be her first time before the group. The organization represents nearly 70 of the nation's largest school districts, including the entire state of Hawaii and the District of Columbia. DeVos is not expected to take questions. (Previous education secretaries have taken questions from conference attendees.)

Past education secretaries, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, have addressed the gathering.  In many of the cases, the organization had existing relationships with the secretaries before they took office: Rod Paige, the first education secretary for the Bush administration, for example, served as superintendent in Houston, while Arne Duncan, the first education secretary in the Obama administration, was previously the CEO of Chicago public schools.

When DeVos was nominated, Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, said that he did not have a relationship with her, but was looking forward to getting to know her.

The council opposes school vouchers, of which DeVos is an ardent supporter. At the national level, the council does not take a position a charters schools and leaves such decisions to its member districts. Some districts have embraced charters to improve low-performing schools. Others have a more contentious relationship with charter schools.

Casserly added that he envisioned that there were many areas where the council and the Trump administration would work together, including on proposed ESSA regulations, the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education act, education research, and school infrastructure. 

"We will work one issue at a time and see how it goes," Casserly said at the time.

As part of the conference, school board members and superintendents will get a primer on federal education policy, dive into state education issues, and review efforts on improving curriculum, school improvement plans, and the council's Males of Color initiative. The conference also has specific sessions on English-language learners, professional development for ELL teachers, and immigration. Attendees will also hear from department of education staffers and visit Capitol Hill to meet with legislators and staff. 

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson is expected to be the luncheon speaker on Sunday. Catherine Lhamon, the chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights who previously led the office for civil rights in the Department of Education in the Obama administration, will address the group on Monday during breakfast.  

DeVos is also slated to address meetings of the National Association of State Boards of Education and the Council of Chief State School Officers in the near future. 


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