DeVos, a committed school choice advocate, described herself as an “agnostic” when it comes to giving children a great education.
“If a child is able to grow and flourish, it shouldn’t matter where they learn,” she said. “I support great public schools, and I support great public school teachers.”
Still, it wasn’t long before she turned to the virtues of school choice in her speech to the representatives from the coalition of the 70 largest urban school districts, which educate more than 7 million students, most of them from low-income families.
She said parents know what is in the best interest of their own children and lamented that parents are often removed from the education decision-making process
“In too many cities and states, parents are still denied the simple, but critical choice of what school their child attends,” DeVos said. “Parents know better than any politician or administrator the unique needs of each of their children.”
The education secretary praised the Indianapolis school district, which has been turning low-performing schools over to third party operators under its “innovation schools” program. The nonprofits or charter school operators make a range of decisions, from curriculum to teacher employment under the arrangement, Chalkbeat reported.
In his remarks, Felton Williams, chairman of the council’s executive committee, said traditional public schools “are proud” to enroll any student “who walks through our doors.” He added, “We don’t shy away from our challenges.”
Williams, who is also a board member of the Long Beach Unified School District, invited DeVos to meet with a small delegation of superintendents from urban school districts to discuss their specific challenges. Those challenges, he said, include funding shortfalls and implementing the new education law, Every Student Succeeds Act.