DeVos, 59, is a billionaire Republican donor who spent more than two decades promoting charter schools and school voucher programs in her home state of Michigan and other states
Betsy DeVos arrives at the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo, photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas
10 of February 2017 18:58:00
WASHINGTON – Angry activists shouted "stand up, fight back" and one protester was arrested, as Betsy DeVos made her first visit to a public school Friday as education secretary.Several dozen protesters, some with small children, gathered at Jefferson Middle School, a predominantly African-American school in the nation's capital. At one point, when DeVos tried to enter the school, two protesters blocked her path, forcing her to return to her car. D.C. police said one man was detained for assaulting a police officer.DeVos eventually made it inside the school, in a visit that was designed to help her mend fences with teachers and parents across the country following a contentious confirmation battle.DeVos praised the school for its hard work and innovative approaches to teaching and vowed to strengthen public education. But she also had some tough words for the protesters."I respect peaceful protest, and I will not be deterred in executing the vital mission of the Department of Education," DeVos said in a statement. "No school door in America will be blocked from those seeking to help our nation's school children."DeVos, 59, is a billionaire Republican donor who spent more than two decades promoting charter schools and school voucher programs in her home state of Michigan and other states. She faced fierce opposition during the confirmation process from teachers unions who fear that she intends to defund traditional public schools. Two Republican senators from rural states that rely heavily on public schools opposed the nomination and Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote Tuesday.DeVos' visit itself was not advertised by the Education Department and was closed to the news media. Besides the arrest, police were investigating an allegation of assault on Secretary DeVos.Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the groups that vigorously opposed DeVos' nomination, condemned the incident."Just heard a protester blocked & almost knocked Secy @BetsyDeVos down at Jefferson," she wrote on Twitter. "We don't condone such acts."
Agree or disagree w @BetsyDeVos on any issue, but let's all agree she really needs to be in public schools. Please let her in.— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) February 10, 2017