In an unprecedented meeting, United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos invited a delegation from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to discuss the success of homeschooling and to determine what homeschoolers need from the federal government for continued autonomy and success.
For the first time in its 38-year history, the U.S. Department of Education arranged for a sitting U.S. secretary of education to meet privately with the Christian homeschool legal group.
A friend to homeschoolers
DeVos was commended during HSLDA’s visit for supporting homeschooling and respecting homeschool parents, and she was also requested to help forward the homeschool movement through cooperation and limited governmental restrictions.
“[We] asked her to continue to work to preserve the freedom and autonomy of homeschooling families, and asked her to continue to protect homeschool graduates from discrimination,” HSLDA reported.
One homeschooling mother from the Washington, D.C., area was able to communicate the advantages of teaching her children one-on-one from home.
“The highlight of our meeting was when a local mom, Tricia Powell, shared with Secretary DeVos why she homeschools her two children and how they have thrived in her family’s homeschool program,” HSLDA Director of Federal Relations William Estrada shared. “It was a privilege to hear Powell share her passion and enthusiasm for homeschooling.”
One of the topics brought up during the meeting was HSLDA’s objection to K–12 vouchers – which pay for federally controlled homeschool programs that potentially open the door for more government regulations of homeschooling.
“We were also able to discuss in person with Secretary DeVos why HSLDA and homeschoolers across the nation oppose vouchers for K–12 homeschools,” Estrada added. “We believe that federal homeschool funding would be detrimental in the long run to the cause of homeschool freedom.”
During the discussion, DeVos expressed that she was more than eager to help ensure the educational freedom of homeschoolers across the nation.
“She was a generous listener and emphasized her strong belief that families should be enabled to choose the best form of education for their children – whether that is in a public school, private school or homeschool,” insisted Estrada, whose nonprofit group is based in Purcellville, Virginia. “She also made it clear that she will not use her power as secretary of education to force states or local school districts to adopt federal top-down approaches to education.”
HSLDA recently announced that it was pleased about President Donald Trump’s executive order reining in the federal role in education, and DeVos is playing a crucial role in curbing government overreach in the schools – such as former President Barack Obama’s federalized one-size-fits-all Common Core standards that stretches over most states.
“Secretary DeVos and her team are working to identify and eliminate past U.S. Department of Education programs and guidance that violate the principles of federalism,” Estrada pointed out.
DeVos on the move for parents and kids’ autonomy
Last week, DeVos made it clear that those opposed to school choice have essentially “chilled creativity” and limited the ability of disadvantaged families to succeed.
Even though she did not elaborate on how the Trump administration would promote school choice – to expand access to and promote less-traditional education options such as homeschooling, charter schools and voucher programs – she expressed that states resisting school choice are making a “terrible mistake” that will hurt families and local economies.
"They will be hurting the children and families who can least afford it,” DeVos asserted, according to CNN. “If politicians in a state block education choice, it means those politicians do not support equal opportunity for all kids."
While recently speaking in Indianapolis, Indiana, at a pro-school choice conference, she stressed that besides options in education, parents and children need lots of opportunities.
"[Parents and children need] the widest number of quality options," DeVos continued. "If a menu is full of bad options, then do you really have a choice at all?"
DeVose – who Trump appointed as the head of the Education Department earlier this year to the dismay of big-government Democrats – indicated that many of the decisions for curriculum and public school matters will be up to individual states to decide, noting that the federal budget is leaving room to give states federal grant money to pay for school choice initiatives from coast to coast.
"We all fundamentally know one size doesn't fit all – and that we won't accomplish our goals by creating a new federal bureaucracy or by bribing states with their own taxpayers' money," DeVos expressed last Monday, CNN reported. "We should have zero interest in substituting the current big-government approach for our own (new) big-government approach."
At the Indiana summit hosted by the American Federation of Children, she also made it clear that the federal government will stop intruding into an area it was never meant to enter – as the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of the government’s role is education, which it left up to parental discretion.
“When it comes to education, no solution – not even ones we like – should be dictated or run from Washington, D.C.,” the head of education insisted, according to Politico.
During her early days in office, the conservative education expert promised that she will do all she can to improve public schools, but impressed that she wants to leave the door open for parents to place their children in the best place they can to allow for the best educational experience possible.
"[I am] a strong advocate for great public schools, [but] if a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child ... we should support a parent's right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative," DeVos expressed to the Senate Health, Education and Pensions Committee earlier this year, Fox News reported.