Prepared Remarks by Secretary DeVos at the Education Writers Association 72nd National Seminar

Prepared Remarks by Secretary DeVos at the Education Writers Association 72nd National Seminar

May 6, 2019

Thank you for that introduction, and thank you for hosting me today.

Education is an issue I tend to think a lot about—and have for many years. I’ve followed your reporting and I appreciate all that you do as journalists.

The simple truth is: I never imagined I’d be a focus of your coverage. I don’t enjoy the publicity that comes with my position. I don’t love being up on stage or on any kind of platform. I’m an introvert.

As much as many in the media use my name as clickbait or try to make it all about me, it’s not. Education is not about Betsy DeVos nor any other individual.

It’s about students. It’s about acknowledging the innate value of every single one of them. And embracing the belief that each one has an important role to play—a purpose. If you accept that, then each of them should have the freedom to develop and achieve their fullest potential. That is why I’m here.

I entered public life to promote policies that empower all families. Notice that I said “families,” not government. It should surprise no one that I am a common-sense conservative with a healthy distrust of centralized government. Instead, I trust the American people to live their own lives and to decide their own destinies. That’s a freedom philosophy.

So, I look forward to discussing our Education Freedom Scholarships proposal at length.

It’s one that deserves accurate reporting and fair analysis. So, first of all, in too many stories about our proposal, I see the term “public money.” And I’m reminded of something another education secretary often said.

Margaret Thatcher said that government “has no source of money other than the money people earn themselves.” There is no such thing as “public money.” The Iron Lady was right!

Our proposal allows people to direct money they themselves have earned. They will voluntarily contribute to non-profit organizations that provide scholarships directly to students. It’s a much more effective and efficient way of getting resources to students who need them the most.

Second, Education Freedom Scholarships aren’t only for students who want to attend private schools. In fact, some states may choose to design scholarships for public school options, such as apprenticeships or dual-enrollment or transportation to a different public school. Each state has the opportunity to be really imaginative and to serve the unique needs of students in their state.

Third, let’s get the terminology right about schools and school choice. Charter schools are public schools. Vouchers are not tax-credits nor are they tax-deductions nor education savings accounts nor 529 accounts. There are many different mechanisms that empower families to choose the education that’s right for their children. And they are just that, mechanisms.

So, the phrase, “vouchers for charter schools,” for instance, is nonsensical.

And fourth, let’s stop and rethink the definition of public education. Today, it’s often defined as one-type of school, funded by taxpayers, controlled by government. But if every student is part of “the public,” then every way and every place a student learns is ultimately of benefit to “the public.” That should be the new definition of public education.

While it is true that 90 percent of students today are enrolled in traditional public schools, it’s also true that 60 percent of their parents say they would prefer something different if only they had the freedom to choose.

So, I’ll continue to fight for their freedom, and freedom for all. Thank you and I look forward to our conversation.