MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos opened Saturday’s lineup of prominent Republican speakers at the Republican Leadership Conference by making the case for charter schools.
“I wanted to highlight something the fake news media won’t report,” DeVos said. “You’ll hear repeatedly that charter schools are bad. The truth is they’re the best thing that happened to Detroit students.”
According to Michigan test results released earlier this month, Detroit charter schools are behind average state scores in math and English. Charter schools in Detroit educate about half of the city’s students.
On Friday, DeVos visited the Detroit Edison Public School Academy, a charter school.
The billionaire has been a staunch advocate for school choice, calling for the Supreme Court to get rid of the Blaine Amendment, a law in 38 states including Michigan that forbids the government to fund schools with a religious affiliation.
“It’s high time for the high court to block out Blaine,” DeVos said. “Education is simply not the role of the federal government. The family is the first school and education is perhaps the most local issue there is.”
In a conversation onstage with Chair of the Michigan Republican Party Laura Cox, DeVos said the most rewarding part of her job is “the conviction that we are focused solely on doing what’s right for students.”
On Friday afternoon, The Michigan Democratic Party released the following statement on behalf of Chair Lavora Barnes:
“It’s shameful how Betsy DeVos has turned her back on the state she used to call home, selling out our students in favor of a far-right agenda that puts millionaires and billionaires over everyday people. We’re not interested in more empty words and broken promises from Betsy DeVos, whether it’s during a visit to one of our schools, a cabinet meeting, or on Mackinac Island.”
When Cox asked DeVos about her working relationship with President Donald Trump, DeVos described their communication style.
“It’s very short sentences and phrases but I know exactly what he’s saying and vice versa,” DeVos said. “He’s a great boss. He’s very encouraging.”
Vice President Mike Pence will be arriving at the conference Saturday afternoon after a scheduled stop at the Pellston Regional Airport.
The evening will conclude with a dinner program with U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.