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Area superintendents offer views about DeVos


The Weirton Daily Times

WHEELING, W.Va.  — Some local school superintendents are concerned about future funding for public education after the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s secretary of education Tuesday.

Hancock County Schools Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson expressed dismay at the approval of DeVos by the Senate.

“I am very disappointed,” she said. “I thought after the all-night session, they would be able to block her appointment. I watched part of her questioning, and was surprised about her lack of knowledge of education in general. Most vividly, I remember her comments about mastery and accountability of assessments.

“She doesn’t have enough experience in public schools, and has never been in one. She doesn’t talk about having any experience in a public school, and that’s a real concern,” Kidder-Wilkerson said.

Kidder-Wilkerson said the economic issues brought about by DeVos’ appointment are what she finds most troubling. DeVos is a supporter of charter schools, and Kidder-Wilkerson fears public school funding will be siphoned away to fund charter schools.

Shadyside Local School District Superintendent John Haswell said he is taking a wait-and-see position on DeVos, although he is surprised she was confirmed despite not having a background in public education.

“I don’t want to throw stones at the lady before she begins, but it is interesting that we now have someone in charge of the federal education system that has no experience with public schools,” Haswell said.

“Her interests are charter schools and choice. But you won’t find anyone who is against school choice. That is why we have open enrollment programs. We just need much more accountability in these charter schools.

“If you want to have a charter school system, find a way to fund it without taking away money from the public schools,” he continued.

Haswell added he believes at the federal level, people often “make laws that they have no idea about.”

“I guess we will just have to wait and see,” he said.

West Virginia’s senators were split on DeVos’ confirmation, with Republican Shelley Moore Capito voting to approve her and Democrat Joe Manchin in opposition.

“As a former governor, I understand how crucial it is for an executive leader to have his team in place, but as a senator it is my job to evaluate a nominee’s qualifications and determine if they can lead that agency,” Manchin said. “After meeting with Betsy DeVos, reviewing her experience and watching her hearing, I could not vote for her to be our next secretary of education. … Betsy DeVos has spent her career working to privatize public schools, not investing in and improving them. The policies that she supports would divert already very limited public funds to private schools, reduce accountability from those schools, and significantly harm the public school system in a rural state like West Virginia.”

But Capito said she’s confident DeVos will “keep her promise” to shift decision-making authority away from the federal government and back to local officials when it comes to public education.

“As my voting record indicates, I do not agree with Mrs. DeVos on every issue. However, I do believe she is a passionate advocate for children and learning, and she will work hard to improve education for all students across West Virginia and the nation,” Capito said.

Ohio’s senators also were split on DeVos’ nomination, along party lines. Republican Rob Portman voted in favor of confirmation, while Democrat Sherrod Brown voted against.

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