Betsy DeVos, former education secretary in the Trump administration, told Newsmax on Wednesday night the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the failings of a public school education system that has let down children across the country.
"Particularly kids in urban areas and the poor areas of our country where they don't have any other choice or any other option" have been let down, DeVos told "Rob Schmitt Tonight."
DeVos said she believes "educational freedom," i.e., school choice, is on the rise across the country. On Jan. 24, Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a measure that would allow a family to use taxpayer funds for private school tuition. On Jan. 30, Utah became the third state to enact a universal school choice program. Arizona was the first when it adopted a similar policy last year.
Republican governors in in Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia also are pushing to pass universal school choice programs in 2023. Teacher unions are adamantly opposed. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has called such initiatives racist.
"Make no mistake: The 'real pioneers' of private school choice were the white politicians who resisted school integration," Weingarten said in a 2017 speech.
But DeVos, a frequent target for Weingarten's wrath, said the demand for school choice began with parents saying they have had enough and want change.
"The reality is the big school unions are all about themselves and all of the people who are part of the system," DeVos said. "They do not care about kids, but that is why parents are rising up and saying, 'Enough; we want to take back control of our kids' education.' And that's why we've seen big moves and bold moves on the part of governors and legislators in states like Arizona and Iowa and Nevada and soon to be Florida — hopefully Texas very soon, as well."
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