WASHINGTON — Oct 12, 2017, 9:05 PM ET

DeVos touts school choice, STEM for $4 billion in grants

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has put forth a new set of priorities for states, schools and universities competing for federal grant money.

The priorities include school choice, science and technology, special education and school safety.

The Education Department awards approximately $4 billion per year in new and continuation competitive grants across some 80 programs, the agency said Thursday. Education secretaries have historically used these competitions to push their priorities.

"It's a little nudge," said Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners. "This allows the department to nudge the education field toward these priorities."

There are a total of 11 priorities on DeVos' list. After receiving public comments on these proposals, the agency will settle on one or several of them.

Promoting school choice has been a key focus of the Trump administration. School choice refers to providing parents and their children with options besides their district public school, such as charter schools, vouchers or education savings accounts to attend private schools.

DeVos and her supporters say these options better serve students' individual needs and can benefit children whose local schools are underperforming. Critics say charter and private schools don't necessarily outperform neighborhood schools and they lack accountability mechanisms.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate committee devoted to education, criticized DeVos' priorities as a way to privatize education and said the department should be focusing on supporting local, public education.

"Since her confirmation hearing, I have voiced concern that Secretary DeVos would abuse her position to prioritize privatization, and that's exactly what we're seeing," Murray said. "Instead of listening to the millions of students, parents and teachers who stood up against her extreme ideological agenda, her proposal will allow her to prioritize applicants that would siphon taxpayer funds away from the public schools that serve the vast majority of students."

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  • Sonora Nomad

    It's unfathomable to me that Americans are so eager to destroy a nation-wide public school system that made this country great.

  • David

    She's wrong but our public schools need to get back to basics also. The 3 r's. Sprinkle in a little history, health and a shop class. Quit prioritizing sports, and using our schools as bussiness and religious training centers.

  • Trench Ant

    Instead of building up public schools she seeks to dilute them and enrich others like her that run charters. It's a business to them. With no accountability. Trump University for our children. Take the money.

  • ROBOTIX JONES

    Sure DeVos, poor kids in poverty stricken neighborhoods are sure going to be able to use "school choice" to reach a charter school 20 miles away.

    This is the kind of crap you get when you put these silver spooner out of touch people in important positions.

  • Noon

    Pensions.

  • Pologize3

    Sad how the person who couldn't even discuss the difference between growth and proficiency measurements in her confirmation hearing is our secretary of education. Nor could she discuss anything significant about the IDEA act which takes priority over pretty much everything in public education. She's a rich idiot who is simply vomiting ignorant talking points and ideology.

  • Dicazi

    Ohio's Kasich is a huge charter school/eschool advocate.
    Ohio is taking millions back from an school who falsified enrollment numbers.
    And Ohio made a USA Today article about charter schools getting millions for students that never show up to class.
    Many charter school students do worse on testing than public schools.
    An emphasis on STEM is a good idea.
    Just not for these "fake" schools.

  • Jay-me Seven

    It would appear that Betsy has been supplanted as Cabinet Cougar by Kirsten Nielson.