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Protesters Point To Flaws In Betsy DeVos’ Education Plans

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Before students, teachers and Natrona County School District officials greeted U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at Woods Learning Center on Tuesday, another group was waiting.

Protesters welcomed her arrival at 500 S. Walsh Drive with jeers, catcalls, signs and a joke or two referring to DeVos’ confirmation hearing earlier this year.

One sign read, “Yogi Bear says no to guns.”

In January, Education Secretary nominee DeVos told a Senate committee that schools should be allowed to have guns on campus to protect against grizzly bears, referring to a school in northwest Wyoming.

Joking aside, Indivisible Casper gathered about 35 people on the sidewalk overlooking the school to voice their disdain for the nation’s top educator who attended only private schools and had no experience in public school administration before President Donald Trump nominated her.

DeVos launched her “rethinking schools” tour in Casper on Tuesday. She said she wanted to see what Woods Learning Center had to offer as an example of one of the Natrona County School District’s “schools of choice.”

But in her discussion of school choice, she did not mention her support of charter schools or voucher programs. Charter schools are hard to establish in Wyoming.

When asked about them, DeVos dodged the question.

“Having more choices for parents to make to really find the right education for each of their children is really important,” she said during a news conference after her speech to Woods students Tuesday.

“And it’s also up to the people of every state to decide how that happens, but what is not negotiable is the notion that every child should have an equal opportunity to get a great education,” she said.

Jane Ifland, the coordinator of the Indivisible Casper protest, said DeVos has advocated for private schools and they do not have a responsibility to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are treated equitably.

“She is uninterested in pursuing the idea that students who are differently abled should be mainstreamed, and everybody goes to school together,” Ifland said.

The Natrona County School District’s “schools of choice” program is fine, because the district offers a choice among public schools, she said.

But DeVos’ advocacy of charter schools and voucher programs that could pull away funds from public education, she said.

The school systems in Detroit and Michigan, for example, has suffered from such a system, Ifland said.

DeVos isn’t interested in advancing the cause of public education, she said.

“American public schools are institutions of equality and advancement,” Ifland said.

“They are the place where the American dream is fertilized and watered,” she said. “So the more we diminish the potential of American public schools to provide our country with effective citizens, the worse off we are.”


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