U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos starts her 2017 Rethink School Tour Tuesday in Wyoming. At 8:30 in the morning she’ll visit the Woods Learning Center in Casper, followed by the St. Stephens Indian School on the Wind River Reservation at 12:30. DeVos announced the schools she planned to visit Monday afternoon, the day before her arrival.
Indivisible Casper’s Jane Ifland is organizing a demonstration outside the Woods Learning Center in response to DeVos's visit. She’s concerned about the secretary’s support for voucher programs that would allow public funds to go to private schools, and about the last-minute nature of the visit.
“We must have transparency in government in order to actually effectuate of, by and for the people,” Ifland said. “So the idea that she’s sneaking in here, that in and of itself is not acceptable.”
According to a media advisory from the US Department of Education, the tour, scheduled for September 12 through the 15, will also make stops in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana. DeVos wants “to highlight the ways local educators are meeting the unique needs of students.”
Brian Farmer, executive director of the Wyoming School Boards Association, said he was surprised DeVos decided to kick off the tour in Wyoming, because she is a proponent of school choice and the use of publicly funded vouchers to pay for private education. Farmer said Wyoming’s constitution currently would not permit such a program, but that doesn’t mean there is not choice in Wyoming.
“I think that’s really one of the things we are hoping to make clear, is that there is a whole arena of choice within the public system,” said Farmer.
He pointed to Wyoming’s publicly run alternative schools, and districts like Natrona County, where DeVos will visit, that allow students to attend the public school of their choosing.