Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits Toledo, northwest Ohio

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited northwest Ohio Monday to observe how Penta Career Center partnered with local organizations to educate students.

Starting at 11 a.m., Ms. DeVos first toured the Lucas County Correctional Treatment program, where she observed high school equivalency classes that Penta Career Center provides to inmates. She then planned to visit Penta Career Center headquarters in Perrsyburg, where she will walk the facilities and meet with school administration, teachers, and students.

While visiting the correctional program, Ms. DeVos observed several classrooms and spoke with students studying for their GED test.

"Hi, what’s your name?" she asked a student.

"I’m Jared."

"Hi Jared, I’m Betsy. It’s nice to meet you."

Ms. DeVos repeated this process for every student.

Ms. DeVos talked with students about their coursework, including fractions, reading preferences, and photosynthesis.

Ms. DeVos is a former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan and chair of the pro-school-choice advocacy group American Federation for Children.

The nomination of Ms. DeVos to the nation’s highest public education office, a staunch advocate for charter schools and vouchers — which allow the use of public money to pay for private schools — has been controversial among many public school educators.

This is Ms. DeVos’ second official visit to Northwest Ohio since joining President Donald trump’s cabinet in February, 2017.

A Michigan native, Ms. DeVos toured Van Wert City Schools in April, 2017, alongside Randi Weingarten, leader of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers and one of Ms. DeVos’ most ardent critics.

Ron Matter, superintendent of Penta Career Center, said Department of Education staff members contacted him last week about a VIP visit to Penta facilities, explaining that U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) had suggested that Ms. DeVos visit Northwest Ohio to see what Penta was doing with adult career-tech training programming.

Kevin Dalton, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, that he was disappointed that neither the union nor the Toledo’s public school district was notified about Ms. DeVos’ visit or invited to meet with Ms. DeVos.

“Some people want to protest, but I’m more interested in having a conversation and having a commitment from her to supporting public education,” Mr. Dalton said. “Ohio public schools have been devastated by corrupt charter schools, like the [Educational Classroom of Tomorrow] scandal, so what I’d like to hear is a commitment to public education and a commitment to not reducing other resources for public schools.”

Mr. Dalton added that he believes the career education programs at Toledo Public Schools, which is the largest school district in northwest Ohio, are just as strong as those at Penta, and he said he wished Ms. DeVos had asked to tour TPS’s own career education facilities, including the Toledo Technology Academy and the Aerospace Center.

Staff writer Adelaide Feibel contributed to this report.

Check back later for updates.

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