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DeVos: DC Protesters “Hostile to Change”; “Keeping Kids In and New Thinking Out”

February 15, 2017

On February 15, 2017, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at the 2017 National Policy Training Conference of the Magnet Schools of America.

It was her first public speech as secretary of education. She chose to use the occasion to portray protests against her as closed-mindedness and nothing more than “hostility to change.”

Below are her remarks in full, as posted among the US Department of Education press releases:

Good Afternoon:

Thank you for that kind introduction Todd, and thank you for inviting me to be here with you.

I want to begin by expressing my appreciation for all you do. I would like to share some thoughts on how I hope to support your important work, but first, let me just comment on something you may have seen on TV.

Last Friday, a handful of protestors tried to block my entrance into Jefferson Middle School Academy here in D.C. While I eventually made it in, and had very constructive conversations with Chancellor Wilson, many DC administrative leaders, some terrific teachers and Principal Dohmann, the protestors’ behavior is a reflection of the way some seek to treat our education system – by keeping kids in and new thinking out.

Friday’s incident demonstrates just how hostile some people are to change and to new ideas. Without realizing it, we, too, can fall victim to this trap of seeing our work in education as an “us vs. them” approach.

I know this to be true throughout the reform community, where there are those who claim to be champions of education, but they really only support their respective “sectors.” These silos are unnecessary and unproductive in our common goal to serve all students. So I applaud your work to expand and improve options for all children through magnet schools.

The education of a child is not a zero-sum game. When a student excels academically, we do not place an asterisk next to his or her name based on the type of school he or she attends.

I want to encourage you today to look beyond the walls of your schools, beyond the invisible lines of your community, and let’s renew our commitment to doing what’s best for each and every child.

A quick question:
By a show of hands, who here got involved in education to make money? (If you did, I’m not judging you) … I don’t see any hands up.

Who here got involved because you don’t trust teachers? Again, no hands.

Okay, last one. Who here today got involved in education because you care deeply about students and their needs?

Now all of you have raised your hand.

Our care for students and their futures is what brings us together. This is the common element that makes our mission so noble: Our collective goal is to provide all students with an equal opportunity for a high-quality education.

I don’t need to recite the history of magnet schools and the vital role they’ve played to improve the lives of urban students, combat segregation, and provide a quality option to parents and kids alike. Indeed, magnet schools are often referred to as the original school choice option.

I’ve seen the evidence firsthand. In my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, City High Middle School is nationally recognized and is ranked the third-best school in the state. Forty-five percent are minority students, and 98 percent of all students are enrolled in IB programs.

In conversations with parents and students who are part of City High, it’s clear how much they appreciate and value the opportunity that school provides.

After 40 years since the inception of magnet schools, I think it’s important to celebrate their important role and also to remind ourselves that there’s so much more work to be done.

That is why I am honored to join you today. Your presence demonstrates your commitment to creating quality options, to embracing innovation, and to seeking new ways to better serve some of our most underserved students.

Let’s also celebrate the fact that more than 2.6 million students benefit from attending 3,285 magnet schools. These schools are offering parents tremendous options, and they offer students an important opportunity they wouldn’t have had elsewhere. I applaud your commitment to developing and communicating best practices to ensure all magnet schools strive to be models of excellence.

I’m proud to highlight the Department’s Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP), and note that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers new flexibilities that will hopefully lead to greater program success.

First, ESSA extends the grant term from three years to up to five years, and increases the maximum cumulative grant award from $12 million to $15 million. Grantees will now have more time and funding to implement their themes, diversify their schools and improve academic outcomes.

Second, ESSA allows grant funds to be spent on transportation for your school’s students, thereby improving access to new, thriving magnet schools for all students. And third, ESSA allows your schools to measure diversity by both socioeconomic background as well as race.

But the reality is: What makes your schools transformative places of learning is not a federal grant; it’s not the brick and mortar, it’s you, the human connection. You and your teachers are the difference-makers and the life-changers.

The relationships you forge with your students give them a platform from which to launch.

As the Secretary of Education, I am committed to supporting your success, celebrating your commitment to quality, and working with you to ensure that magnet schools continue to play a vital role in bettering student achievements.

Please know, I am the type of person who listens more than she speaks, so know that my door is open to you, to hear your concerns, and to help you build on your achievements.

Thank you again for everything you do for America’s children. I appreciate you, and I know the parents and students you serve do as well.

I wish you a very successful conference and visit to our nation’s capital. Thanks very much.

DeVos refuses to acknowledge any downside to her cemented agenda of school choice. No negative evidence permeates her position.

She tells others that she listens more than she speaks. That’s not how it works, Betsy. Genuine listeners do not need to publicly promote themselves as listeners.

Betsy DeVos wants the public to buy into the fabrication that she is a listener.

But this was a safe audience: magnet school teachers and admin.

I look forward to how well her first speech to an audience of regular public school teachers will be received.

betsy-devos-16  Betsy DeVos speaks to the Magnet Schools of America


Want to read more about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Betsy Devos

  1. February 15, 2017


  2. they used that same line on MA educators who did not support charter schools… They had surveys on telephone where they would call in “do MA teachers not want to innovate?” Was one of their questions. (the surveyors were paid and they were out of state). When the State Auditor looked at charter schools, her office said they had not even defined “innovation” so it could be measured. The great claim they have for innovation is more time on task; that has been around for 100 years or more and is “grandma’s rule” practice makes perfect. That is their innovation?

    • A “public” survey strategically pushing more blame onto teachers simply by phrasing the question “Do teachers not want to innovate?”

  3. I tweaked some words from Bill Phillis at Ohio E&A to get this email I sent to MA governor

    Governor Charlie Baker likes Devos and Lamar Alexander and trump’s plans for education. “It is frightening that Lamar believes charters are the most successful school “reform” in 30 years. Ohio’s fraud-ridden, low performing charter industry mirrors chartergate nationwide. The charter “reform” is, in reality, about how funds are spent…The charter industry has not provided one strategy, tactic, methodology or pedagogical process that has “enlightened” the traditional education community. Not one. None.” (Bill Phillis at Ohio E&A)

    Suzanne Bump’s audit in MA found that charters haven’t even defined “innovations” to identify any pedagogy or methodology.. So Baker says “we will do our own thing and call it empowerment.” PAY TO PLAY who are the cronies he will now be pushing forward to “empower” where they cannot innovate because the LOGIC is flawed. Destroying democracy from Boston is now why governors get elected.

  4. MM Dowell permalink

    Magnet schools have NOT helped with segregation. In some South Louisiana districts, the magnet lottery “feeding frenzy” is painful. While many magnet schools are stellar, they typically receive additional funding and resources.

    And what the heck is the “reform community?” Those who would profit from commodifying education??

  5. When you’re on a Mission from God every one else is just an infidel.

  6. What do you say to those who cite innovative home grown charters as reasons to endorse charters in general? In our area people see only the five well run local charter schools. I try explain about corporate charter chains, but they insist they must be rare. I explain that DeVos wants to control schools through corporate management and not elected school boards. Again, they think it couldn’t happen here. How do I reach people when the only charters they know are positive?

  7. Abigail Shure NTU/AFT permalink


    DeVos Dear,

    Is your door open to angry urban teachers?

    Are you listening to protesters?

    Bait and switch is a well known game.

  8. Eileen permalink

    The question then becomes will she even address a conference of public school teachers?

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  1. Mercedes Schneider on Betsy DeVos’ First Public Speech | Diane Ravitch's blog

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