NRI Ideas Summit

DeVos: ‘One-Size-Fits-All Approach’ to Education Won’t Do

National Review’s Jay Nordlinger and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (Pete Marovich)

Students and teachers both suffer from a “one-size-fits-all approach” to education, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Friday.

DeVos joined National Reviews Jay Nordlinger at the National Review Institute 2019 Ideas Summit to discuss the Trump administration’s progress on school choice, an issue the secretary has made her top priority.

“What I really want to see is that every child have a great opportunity, an equal opportunity to get a great education in K–12,” DeVos said. “Far too many kids are achieving at not the levels that they could, that they’re stuck in schools that don’t work for them.”

Last month, the Education Department proposed $5 billion a year in federal tax credits for scholarships to private schools as well as apprenticeship and other educational programs. DeVos said the plan would not siphon money from the public-school system, which is a concern raised by critics of school choice, who worry that public schools in poor areas where students do not have the opportunity to choose another school could be crippled financially.

“For over 100 years we’ve been doing school essentially the same,” DeVos said, adding that she believes there is “growing momentum” for her policies. “We need a lot more education freedom.”

DeVos added that part of her goal is to address the federal government’s “outsized role” in childhood education and “empower states in the way that was originally intended.”

“I’m very much in favor of shrinking the federal role in education,” she said, emphasizing that education “needs to go down to the most local level . . . the parent.”

As far as teachers go, DeVos said that the current top-down education system denies teachers the “autonomy and flexibility” to “be their best.”

“The teaching profession has become very de-professionalized over the years,” she said, because teachers “don’t feel respected” when they aren’t allowed autonomy to decide how to teach their students.

Despite the flaws DeVos still hopes to address in the education system, she said she feels “optimistic” when she meets young students and sees the “excitement in their eyes” about the future.

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