U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' Prepared Remarks at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland

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US Department of Education

Feb. 23, 2017

Press Office, (202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' Prepared Remarks at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference 

Hello! Thank you for that warm welcome. I always love the energy and enthusiasm CPAC brings together every year.

I’m Betsy DeVos. You may have heard some of the “wonderful” things the mainstream media has called me lately. I, however, pride myself on being called a mother, a grandmother, a life partner, and perhaps the first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

The media has had its fun with me, and that’s OK.

My job isn’t to win a popularity contest with the media or the education establishment here in Washington. My job as Secretary of Education is to make education work for students.

But today, we know the system is failing too many kids.


Because our nation’s test scores have flatlined.

Because 1.3 million children drop out of school every year.

Because the previous administration spent seven billion of your dollars on “School Improvement Grants,” thinking they could demonstrate that money alone would solve the problem. Yet their own report, issued as they walked out the door, showed that it had zero impact on student outcomes and performance.

They tested their model, and it failed… miserably.

This is not an indictment of teachers. We all know good public school teachers. My mom was one. Good teachers make a real difference. Good teachers deserve to be honored and compensated accordingly.

But the education establishment has been blocking the doorway to reforms, fixes and improvements for a generation.

This not a Left or Right issue. This is an American issue. We need education to work for every child.

Let me ask you: Do you believe parents should be able to choose the best school for their child regardless of their ZIP code or family income?

(YES!) Me too. And so does President Trump.

We have a unique window of opportunity to make school choice a reality for millions of families. Both the President and I believe that providing an equal opportunity for a quality education is an imperative that all students deserve.

Now let me ask you: How many of you are college students?

The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.

As Secretary, I don’t think the Department of Education in Washington should have more power over your decisions than you do. I took this job because I want to return power in education back to where it belongs: with parents, communities, and states.

We can do this, but only with your help.

Defenders of the status quo will stop at nothing to protect their special interests and their gig. So we need you to engage, to be loud and to never stop fighting for what we believe. We need you to call, write, email, Tweet and Snap every politician who thinks the status quo is ok and that they know better than you when it comes to your education.

Together, we can make American education great again. The next generation deserves no less.

I thank you, and I look forward to fighting alongside you.