Betsy DeVos’ Press Release About Her DC School Visit
On Friday, February 10, 2017, US Ed Sec Betsy DeVos was in the news because protesters blocked one of the entrances to DC’s Jefferson Middle School, which DeVos had chosen to visit that day.
What did not so obviously make the news was DeVos’ press release regarding the incident. Below is the full text of that release.
Pay attention to DeVos’ final sentence.
Statement from U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Visiting Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington, D.C.
FEBRUARY 10, 2017
Contact: Press Office, (202) 401-1576, firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos traveled to Jefferson Middle School Academy today and met with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson, Jefferson Academy Principal Greg Dohmann, Superintendent Natalie Gordon, Chief of Schools John Davis, and other school leaders and administrators, including Jefferson Academy teachers and students.
The following is a statement from Secretary DeVos:
“I thank D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson, Jefferson Middle School Academy Principal Greg Dohmann, Superintendent Natalie Gordon and a tremendous team of administrators, teachers and students for welcoming me to Jefferson Middle School Academy today. Jefferson Academy is a public middle school on the rise and a great example of the successful collaborative innovations occurring within the D.C. Public Schools system.
“Focusing on their students and families is at the heart of Jefferson Academy’s approach, and that’s exactly what I believe is at the heart of providing an exceptional education. Great teachers and leaders help make great schools, and I was honored to speak with Jefferson’s team about our shared commitment to strengthening public education.
“I respect peaceful protest, and I will not be deterred in executing the vital mission of the Department of Education. No school door in America will be blocked from those seeking to help our nation’s school children.”
DeVos ends her press release with, “No school door in America will be blocked from those seeking to help our nation’s school children.”
Let us consider what DeVos says here– and what she omits.
First of all, DeVos omits the word “public” in describing the “schools.” Private schools set their own rules. DeVos favors sending public money to private schools, and she has not committed to equal accountability for all schools receiving federal money, whether traditional public, charter, or private. So, it seems that it could have been a bit awkward for DeVos to offer a statement about “no public school door being blocked.”
Next, DeVos’ final statement is unrealistic. Just because a person purports to be a helper of the nation’s school children does not mean that person should gain automatic and unquestioned entrance. Safety issues come into play, for example.
Third, DeVos obviously considers herself to be among those “seeking to help our nation’s school children.” However, that does not mean she really is a help, and it does not mean that the public will now just discard DeVos’ history of aggressively favoring school choice and virtually ignoring (and working to dismantle) the neighborhood public school.
Finally, the statement about “seeking to help” is a vague one, vague enough to encompass the private-school-voucher dog whistle that DeVos clearly favors.
This leaves me wondering what DeVos considers to be “the vital mission of the Department of Education.” What I hear in these words is yet another voucher-favoring dog whistle.
I agree with DeVos’ words about “peaceful protest.” Protests should be peaceful. However, I wonder how long it will be until DeVos tries to initiate a conversation with those who are protesting.
She has the upper hand here.
Her USDOE door can remain blocked to those who support public schools and who are concerned about her leadership for as long as DeVos so chooses.