Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is scheduled to visit an Ohio public school Thursday at the invitation of one of her chief critics, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.
The two combatants in the nation’s education battles will meet for several hours, touring classrooms and hearing from teachers and students in Van Wert, a rural community of about 11,000 people in northwestern Ohio.
Weingarten said she wants to show DeVos the good things that are happening in public schools. She also wants the secretary to see how the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts would undermine successful programs in a place where voters overwhelmingly supported President Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump has proposed slashing the Education Department’s spending by $9 billion, including billions for after-school programs and teacher training.
“She’s going to see what makes school districts work, what makes education come alive for kids — and it’s a lot of hard-working teachers who are typical of teachers across the country, who are trying to do their best often in really challenging circumstances,” Weingarten said in an interview Wednesday.
DeVos, a longtime advocate for vouchers and charter schools, has emphasized that she favors providing more choices to families, and has fought claims that she wants to dismantle public schools. In her first two months in office, she has visited eight schools, including two charter schools, two private schools, three traditional public schools and one school run by the Department of Defense.
“Every parent should be able to send their children to a school that meets their unique needs, and for many parents, that is a public school,” DeVos said in a statement about her planned visit to Van Wert. “I support and celebrate all great schools.”
There is unlikely to be much in the way of a lasting kumbaya.
Weingarten has not minced words about the new education secretary, describing her as “an ultra-wealthy heiress who uses her money to game the system” and saying that the Senate’s narrow vote to confirm her in February was “a sad day for children.”
On Wednesday, Weingarten published an op-ed in the Van Wert Times Bulletin that criticized DeVos for pushing “failed privatization strategies” and for proposing a budget that would take a “meat cleaver” to public education.
And during DeVos’s three-decade career as an advocate for school vouchers and charter schools, she has been openly critical of teachers unions, describing them as standing in the way of change, particularly for the children most in need of better schools.
But shortly after taking office, DeVos spoke to Weingarten by phone, and the two agreed to meet at least twice — once to tour a traditional public school of the union’s choosing, and once to visit a “choice school” — a charter…