Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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DeVos Avoids Visiting Public Schools in FL's Capital

U.S. Sec. of Ed. Charter-School Tour Raises Eyebrows

TALLAHASSEE, FL - U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a controversial champion of private schools, is causing a stir in Florida's capital city, since it appears she's bypassing any visits to traditional public schools.

DeVos spent Tuesday visiting charter schools, and her trip was extended to include additional charters on Wednesday. Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said she isn't surprised by DeVos' itinerary.

"She seems to make sure that she visits religious schools and charter schools and for-profit schools, all the while she's putting out and slashing the budget for education for public schools," McCall said. "So, I'm not sure she actually understands what her job really is."

The education secretary is promoting a Trump administration budget proposal that would cut total federal spending on public schools by $9 billion but direct an additional $1.4 billion to so-called "school choice" programs. DeVos isn't alone, as policy changes advocated by Florida's Republican leaders to promote alternatives to public schools are in line with her vision for education.

McCall said she believes state officials are tying the hands of teachers to keep them from making the necessary improvements to public schools.

"Then they say to a charter, 'Here is your free rein, here is your cash, go do whatever you want. Have whatever class size you want, whatever kind of curriculum you want, give whatever kind of test that you'd like, and we'll grade you on that.' And that's not a fair playing field, nor is it transparent to the public," McCall said.

DeVos said her visit was part of an ongoing effort to "learn from schools that are uniquely meeting the needs of students." Meanwhile, a number of Florida school districts are preparing to challenge a massive education law that allows charter schools to share funding typically sent to public schools.

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