DeVos: Teachers union has a ‘stranglehold’ on many federal, state politicians

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosTrump admin seeks to roll back Obama-era policy on school discipline: report DeVos to cancel 0M in student loan debt after court loss A sea change for sexual conduct on campus MORE on Tuesday ripped teachers unions across the country, saying they have a “stranglehold” over many federal and state officials and are resistant to “changes that need to happen.”

“The teachers union has a stranglehold on many of the politicians in this country, both at the federal level and at the state-level, and they are very resistant to the kind of changes that need to happen,” DeVos said in an appearance on Fox Business Network. “They are very protective of what they know, and there are protective, really protective of adult jobs and not really focused on what is right for individual students.”

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DeVos has regularly clashed with national and state teachers unions over her comments criticizing the nation’s public education system and her platform to expand school choice, particularly by increasing the number of privately run charter schools, vouchers and similar programs that use public money for private education.

“One of the most fundamental things again is focusing on individual children and knowing that all students are different, they learn differently. I have four children, they were all very different, very different learners. We have to allow for more kinds of schools, more kinds of educational experiences, and to do that we need to empower more families to make those decisions on behalf of their students,” DeVos said before targeting the teachers unions for “protecting the status quo.”

“We have a lot of forces that are protecting what is and what is known, a lot of forces protecting the status quo. We need to combat those, break them, and again empower and allow parents to make decisions on behalf of their individual children because they know their children best,” she added.

Before being nominated to Trump’s Cabinet, DeVos was a prominent advocate for school choice in Michigan.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, slammed DeVos over her latest comments Tuesday.

“Betsy DeVos is showing her true colors. We are fighting for the safe and welcoming public schools that kids deserve, healthcare protections so people aren’t one pre-existing condition away from bankruptcy, affordable college without life-burdening student debt, and decent wages. Since she is against all of that, Betsy is attacking the unions that create a voice for teachers to advocate on these issues. As secretary of education, it is her sworn duty to help kids and their communities reach their full potential. Comments like these do the opposite, and she knows it," Weingarten said in a statement to The Hill.

Teachers groups and DeVos have most recently clashed over arming public school teachers to respond to mass shootings.

It was reported in August that DeVos was considering whether to allow states to use federal money to buy guns for schools under the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program. 

“Instead of after-school programs or counselors, programs that are critical for creating safe and welcoming schools and addressing the mental health needs of kids, DeVos wants to turn schools into armed fortresses and make kids and educators less safe,” Weingarten said. “She wants to turn the U.S. government into an arms dealer for schools. That’s insane.”

Updated: 3:22 p.m.