Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is scheduled to visit the Van Wert public school in Ohio alongside American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who relayed the invitation in hopes of showing how successful these schools can be, given the right funding and necessary tools.
"The hallmarks of successful public schools (and systems) include four essential strategies: promoting children’s well-being, engaging in powerful learning, building teacher and principal capacity, and fostering cultures of collaboration," Weingarten wrote in an op-ed, published in The Van Wert Times Bulletin. "Van Wert puts these four pillars into practice."
In the op-ed, Weingarten criticizes DeVos for "undermin[ing] public schools" by "us[ing] her wealth to push legislators to defund public education in favor of for-profit charter schools." DeVos has long championed voucher programs, arguing that families should be provided with more educational options beyond public schools. However, opponents of voucher programs, like Weingarten, worry that redirecting public funds towards private schools will deprive public school systems of monies they so desperately need. Weingarten also expressed concern over the proposed cuts to the Department of Education budget, which total over $9 billion.
The visit was a collaborative effort between Weingarten and Jeff Hood, the school's physical education teacher and president of the local teachers' union. Hood wanted DeVos to see firsthand the dedication of the school staff and understand the importance of the district's educational programs, especially in a small town where there are minimal options for students who live in rural poverty.
"The day includes a roundtable discussion featuring kindergarten and preschool teachers, a tour of a classroom where students will show off engineering and robotics projects, a stop in a fifth grade class, and another roundtable talk with about a dozen district employees who work in special education," according to The Toledo Blade.
The purpose of the visit is to show Secretary DeVos that public education is not a "dead end" as she reportedly once said. Hopefully, the visit will begin a dialogue among the two factions that addresses some of the ills plaguing our education system. Stay tuned for more details on how the meeting went and whether or not minds were actually changed.
Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor.