Thousands of people are expected to show up when U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits Washington state on Friday. As a longtime proponent of schools vouchers and charter school education, her appointment to President’s Trump's cabinet has been controversial. Critics are expected to protest outside her planned event.
Washington Policy Center, a conservative education think tank in the state, asked her to speak at their annual fundraiser dinner at the Hyatt in Bellevue. They expect 1,500 to attend the sold-out gala.
“What we want people to take away from DeVos’ visit is to hear new ideas about gaining access to choices in education and exciting new ways that families can make choices that will give their kids a better life,” said Paul Guppy, vice president of research at the Washington Policy Center.
“What we’re interested in is how her agenda, I guess, promotes school choice, especially in states like Washington that don’t have a lot of school choice now,” said Guppy.
In the last couple of years, Washington state has welcomed 10 charter schools. The process has been met with some resistance from those who say the state should concentrate on supporting public education.
“Public education needs to be funded, and it needs to be fully and equitably funded so that each and every child gets the programs support and backing that they need to be really successful in Washington state,” said Sharonne Navas, the founder of Equity in Education, which plans to protest Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the Hyatt in Bellevue.
“Secretary DeVos has made it very clear that her priority is not the student of color, it’s not an immigrant refugee or native student. Her priorities are to privatize education so that for-profit management systems can take over and create more wealth for the 1 percent,” she said.
In the meantime, those with the policy center hope people in attendance will be open to DeVos’ message Friday night.
“We’re seeing a lot of hateful, mean-spirited comments directed at her. There’s a lot of anger against her which to us seems unreasonable and closed-minded, so least hear what she had to say, and she is the highest ranking officials in education, and that’s just important,” said Guppy.