DeVos defends Trump-backed education cuts

Michael Gerstein Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Grand Rapids — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Tuesday defended cuts to teacher training programs proposed in President Donald Trump’s budget.

When pressed by reporters about whether she supports the cuts following a tour of technical training facilities at the Grand Rapids Community College campus, DeVos didn’t directly answer the question but said she and Trump support teachers and will continue to do so.

“Actually, President Trump and I are very big proponents of continuing to support teachers and develop teachers,” DeVos told reporters.

Trump’s proposed budget would cut $2.25 billion from a program that provides federal grants to states to train and recruit teachers and would trim another $43 million from a different program that offers professional development and training to current and prospective teachers. Other cuts would hit federal work study and literacy grants.

The Trump administration has called the programs unnecessary and burdensome on the budget.

The proposed reductions also would help clear room for a proposed $1.4 billion boost in federal aid for increasing school choices among traditional public, charter and private schools. The new money would tend to benefit mostly students in urban areas such as Detroit, Pontiac and Flint.

DeVos again defended Tuesday the president’s budget blueprint.

“What we were talking about with the teachers this morning is actually a new approach to teaching different than what so many teachers today have been trained in … really the experiential, immersive kind of hands-on learning,” she said.

“And I think it’s going to be really important for efforts like what the Van Andel Institute is doing, and other entities are doing, to help teachers be able to make that transition to really meet the needs of individual students.”

DeVos earlier Tuesday met privately with teachers in a roundtable at the Van Andel Education Institute – a private science academy in Grand Rapids. In Grand Rapids, DeVos taste-tested brisket from the highly ranked community college’s culinary school and toured machine shops geared toward plastic and metal working before talking with reporters.

The meetings were part of a nationwide tour of education programs geared toward science and technology jobs or technical career training. DeVos spokesman Nate Bailey said they have already visited schools in Florida, California and elsewhere.

The tour is part of an ongoing effort to learn about programs geared toward students who may not want to pursue a traditional four-year university education, Bailey said.

On Wednesday, DeVos will read to students at a public library in Holland in an effort to encourage summer vacation reading and will be back in Grand Rapids later that evening.

When asked if she would push back against schools that don’t support lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students, DeVos said that Trump’s budget is designed to protect the “most vulnerable.”

“Actually the budget that was put forward supports the students that are most vulnerable and most in need of support across the board, and so that is our focus,” she said.

DeVos also stressed that the implementation of the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act will be “a critical piece of that and I’m hopeful that Michigan is going to be very bold and very creative in the way that they’re addressing the needs of students here in Michigan.”

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