Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the president of a teachers union that strongly resisted her confirmation have agreed to tour schools together.
“I said I’d like to visit a public school with her, and then I’d like her to visit a choice school with me,” DeVos told Axios Thursday, recounting a recent phone call with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
Weingarten said the talk was a “short, frank, blunt conversation on my part,” adding the pair’s future school visits must be authentic rather than “a photo op.”
The AFT fiercely opposed DeVos before the Republican mega-donor’s confirmation to lead the Education Department last week.
The Senate confirmed DeVos for her post with a tie-breaking Feb. 7 vote from Vice President Pence, the first of its kind for a Cabinet nominee.
“If she wants to work with the educators who work hard every single day — in districts as diverse as McDowell County, W.Va., Detroit and Scarsdale, N.Y. — to provide children the opportunities they deserve, we renew our invitation to have [DeVos] visit America’s public schools and see the strategies that work for kids,” Weingarten said in a statement after the historic vote.
“But it’s more likely we’ll now hear the same trashing of public schools that the disrupters, the privatizers and the austerity hawks have used for the last two decades. That makes this a sad day for children.”
DeVos faced a storm of criticism before her confirmation vote, with critics arguing she lacked public school experience.
Protesters then tried impeding DeVos’s entrance into Washington, D.C.’s Jefferson Middle School during a Feb. 10 visit after she was sworn in.
DeVos ultimately entered the school, and Weingarten condemned those attempting to stop the visit, which was organized by the Washington Teacher’s Union, a group which also opposed DeVos’s confirmation.
“Just heard a protester blocked & almost knocked Secy @BetsyDeVos down at Jefferson,” she tweeted Feb. 10. "We don’t condone such acts. We want her to go to pub schls."