Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Education secretary's lack of rural experience makes rural school advocates uneasy

Rural school advocates say Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's lack of rural experience is a cause for concern, Tim Marema reports for the Daily Yonder. Robert Mahaffey, executive director of the Rural School and Community Trust, told Marema, “She’s coming into the job with no sense of the realities of rural education and no indication that she actually cares. Will that change? Will she be open to those conversations? It remains to be seen.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
DeVos supports school choice, which favors charter schools and private-school vouchers so parents can opt out of public schools and even bring taxpayer dollars with them. Allen Pratt, executive director of the National Rural Education Association, told Marema, “I think there’s a lot of panic right now on school choice and vouchers. When you’re looking at rural areas, there’s not school choice a lot of times. It’s going to be difficult" because small districts often don’t have more than one school to choose from.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chaired DeVos’ hearing, said DeVos "would not push school choice on states that didn’t want it," Marema writes. Alexander wrote in a letter to constituents: "Mrs. DeVos has testified before our committee that, as much as she supports the idea of giving parents choices of schools, she does not believe Washington, D.C., should tell Arizona or Tennessee or any other state that they must adopt a school choice or voucher program. Additionally, she recognizes that she has no authority to create a voucher program without Congress passing a new law.”

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