State Politics

U.S. Education Secretary DeVos to visit two schools in Florida on Tuesday

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos talks with members of the faculty and students during the tour to of the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences’ Simulation Teaching and Research Centeron in Florida International University in Miami.on Thursday, April 6, 2017
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos talks with members of the faculty and students during the tour to of the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences’ Simulation Teaching and Research Centeron in Florida International University in Miami.on Thursday, April 6, 2017 dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a controversial champion of school choice, is making another trip to the Sunshine State with plans to visit two schools in the state capital on Tuesday, one public and one private.

DeVos will spend the morning at Holy Comforter Episcopal School, a private Christian school that opened in 1955, before visiting Florida State University High School, an “A”-rated public charter school that’s known as “Florida High” and is affiliated with FSU’s College of Education.

Additional details about her trip, such as if she would be meeting with any elected officials while in town, were not released Monday afternoon.

DeVos — a billionaire Republican donor from Michigan who came to the secretary’s job lacking experience in public education — has made several trips to Florida since she was narrowly confirmed by the Senate in February. She was confirmed in a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie, the first time that’s been done in a Senate confirmation vote.

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DeVos visited Central Florida twice in March, one of those times with President Donald Trump. She then spent two days in Miami in April, when she visited a Christian school in Overtown, Florida International University and a charter school affiliated with the rapper Pitbull, among other stops.

In May, she gave the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, where she was met with boos and turned backs from some in the graduating class. (DeVos earlier this year praised historically black colleges and universities, established during the time of racial segregation and Jim Crow laws, as “pioneers” in school choice.)

Policy changes advocated by Florida’s Republican leaders to promote school choice alternatives are in line with DeVos’ vision for education. She has heavily criticized traditional public education, while supporting privately managed charter schools and taxpayer-funded voucher programs that subsidize private school education for children, often from low-income families. She has also advocated for the Trump Administration’s budget proposal for 2018 that seeks to cut public education at the K-12 and higher education levels by billions of dollars.

The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, criticized DeVos in advance of her visit.

“It’s no surprise that Betsy DeVos will be visiting a private school among her stops in Tallahassee,” FEA president Joanne McCall said in a statement. “She has long shown her opposition to public schools, her support for unfettered vouchers and for-profit charter school chains and her desire to privatize all education in this nation.”

U.S. Secretary of Education DeVos visited Royal Palm Elementary in Miami with Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Alberto Carvalho on April 7, 2017.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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