Beginning with a moment of silence for the students, teachers, and all the people who were impacted by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference as she was interviewed by Kay Coles James, Heritage Foundation President. The subject of the speech was empowerment in the areas concerning freedom of choice for education and freedom to express ideas in college.
Among the items discussed by Secretary DeVos were the steps her office is taking to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Every Student Succeeds Act will help to ensure that all students and schools are successful. Secretary DeVos encouraged the decision makers at the State level to empower parents in the education of their children by offering them more educational opportunities, especially military parents. A new plan that the Department of Education and the Heritage Foundation are working to help military parents is to offer education savings accounts for military dependents. Military families with school-age children make decisions regarding whether they serve based on where their children will attend school.
Secretary DeVos explained that school vouchers are not just about considering whether to send your child to private schools. Vouchers are simply a mechanism of how to choose a school. She serves on a task force that focuses on elevating and increasing the opportunities involving apprenticeship. In this country we must realize that obtaining a four-year college or university degree is not the only way to become successful. Millions of jobs go unfilled because people do not have the required skills to fill those jobs.
Secretary DeVos believes college students should be able to express their opinions and test their ideas, which is something that she had a chance to do when she was in college. Without mentioning any specific incidents, Secretary DeVos acknowledged that there have been attempts to silence free speech and the expression of conservative ideas on college campuses. Secretary DeVos told listeners that the place to have disagreements, which she refers to as “the battle of ideas” is on the college campuses. Therefore, Secretary DeVos pledged to work towards ensuring that students will continue to have the opportunity to freely express their ideas. She explained that for college students, support for higher education is a significant role of the Office of Secretary of Education.
Secretary DeVos reiterated her goal of wanting to see that all parents be able to choose what school their child attend. Kay Coles James compared Secretary DeVos to Margaret Thatcher, who was described as, “an iron fist and a velvet glove.” At times, in the face of opposition, Secretary DeVos has championed the cause for equal educational opportunities for children. She was appointed Secretary of the Department of Education by President Donald Trump.
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