Akron mom, school leader says Trump education pick needs to study up

Betsy DeVos' answers did not impress some
Posted at 5:47 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-19 18:30:52-05

A Northeast Ohio parent and a school leader said Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Education needs to hit the books.

Conservative Education Activist Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing made headlines, sometimes for the wrong reasons.

News clips of a sometimes confused or vague-sounding DeVos made the rounds on social media and late night comedians made light of an answer she gave about allowing guns in schools after she said a school in Wyoming might need to allow guns on campus “to protect from potential grizzlies.”

But Akron PTA mom Jill Hiles told News 5 she was more concerned about DeVos’ vague answers on school choice. When Senator Patty Murray, D-Wa, asked DeVos if she would push to privatize public schools, DeVos answered, “I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to talk about how we address the needs of all parents and all students.”

“I think she is a big politician and speaks around what she’s trying to say,” Hiles said.

Hiles took her children out of public school, partially over concerns about bullying. Now they’re learning online, enrolled in the Ohio Virtual Academy. It’s a situation she stays at home to monitor, but she is worried about a lack of government oversight.

“I love it. I really don’t want to it go away,” Hiles said adding, "I do have some strong feelings that there needs to be more regulation.”

In Ohio, charter and private schools that take students from public school also take the accompanying funding. Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James said that means his classrooms have lost millions.

“The public, the taxpayers are paying for that,” James said, “And I think we demand some accountability.”

He too is worried the woman about to take charge of education policy is not well-informed.

"I think she should do some additional homework on really learning how the different rules impact local schools,” he said.

“I think she has a breakdown,” Hiles said. “She doesn’t know that [school choice] has not been working so far, but neither has the traditional buildings for school either.”

On the flip side, supporters of DeVos argue her lack of experience in public education is an asset, a way to shake up the status quo. Confirmation votes won’t happen until after Trump takes office.