Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pushes for school choice, vouchers in Denver

Opponents: She wants 'for profit' education system

DENVER -- U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said choice in education is good politics because it's good policy.

DeVos was in Denver Thursday to address the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that supports limited government, free markets and federalism.

DeVos said choice is good policy because it comes from good parents who want better for their children.

"Families are on the front line of this fight," she said. "Let's stand with them."

Opponents accuse DeVos of pushing a "corporate education agenda" that supports "for-profit" schools.

They rallied Wednesday against that agenda.

"Betsy DeVos will be in town plotting with ALEC to dismantle public institutions that support opportunity for Colorado students, educators and families," said Christina Medina, a Denver Classroom Teachers Association member/teacher at Academia Sandoval. "The policies championed by DeVos have a negative impact in all students, but are especially harmful to students living in poverty and students of color."

"This isn't about school systems," DeVos countered. "This is about individual students, parents and families."

"Schools are at the service of students, not the other way around," she added.

DeVos said she got involved in policy making because she wants students who can't afford to move to another district, or who can't afford tuition, to have the same choice her children did.

But Medina isn't buying it.

"Our Secretary of Education should be someone who will advocate for students with great needs in marginalized communities, not someone who schemes with wealthy corporations to benefit the chosen few... while expecting the rest of us to take what we're given."

DeVos said the Trump Administration will reduce the federal footprint in education.

"He signed an executive directive in April instructing the department to review every regulation that might have kept parents, teachers, communities and states from best serving their students," she said.

The voucher issue is a hot button issue in Colorado.

The Douglas County school district approved a voucher program in March of 2011.

But the Colorado Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional because it allowed the use of public money to educate students in religious schools.

The district then reconfigured the program to exclude religious schools, but a District Court Judge in Denver that the program was not substantially different from the predecessor program.

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the Douglas County case back to Colorado saying the state Supreme Court must reconsider its 2015 ruling in light of its ruling on a similar case in Missouri.

The Justices ruled in the Missouri case that the decision to deny Trinity Lutheran Church certain state funds for a preschool playground violated the U.S. Constitution's protection of the free exercise of religion.

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