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Betsy DeVos Tells School Boards: 'Freedom Is Not a Threat'


Students, teachers, and parents—they all need freedom in order to meet their potential.

That was one of the main messages in prepared remarks by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to a National School Boards Association meeting in Washington on Monday. As she has before, DeVos stressed that students sitting in crumbling and dangerous schools, as well as those bored or struggling in their classes, are relying on adults to "rethink" education and let them achieve "education freedom."

She urged the crowd to ask themselves why students were still assigned to schools based on their addresses, why students are forced to learn at the same speed, why a college degree is considered the only path to success, along with other questions. 

"Freedom is not a threat," DeVos said, according to the prepared speech, pointing to what she said were successful stories of school choice in places like the District of Columbia and Florida. "The only folks who are threatened by education freedom are the same ones who have a vested financial interest in suppressing that freedom."

That remark echoes DeVos' argument in a speech at the Heritage Foundation last week, when she said that teachers' unions are ultimately what stands in the way of students achieving school choice

Elsewhere in the speech, the secretary stressed that a recent school safety report issued by the Trump administration in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., killings last year was a "guide" and not a mandate. (DeVos did act on the Federal Commission on School Safety's recommendation that she repeal Obama-era school discipline guidance.) Stating that there is no "universal school safety plan," she instead urged local communities to find local solutions. 

And she urged school board members to take advantage of the main federal education law's flexibilities; DeVos highlighted the ability for states to use portion of Title I money under the Every Student Succeeds Act for "new and creative" purposes. That's a reference to the 3 percent set-aside in Title I funding that states can spend on things like course choice, dual enrollment, and more. 

"Embrace the freedom ESSA allows and the freedom for which many of you fought. Additionally, look for ways to extend flexibility—to empower teachers and parents, those closest to students," DeVos said.

Photo: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (Dougal Brownlie)

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