Starting With Wyoming BIE School, DeVos Set to Visit Schools in States Aligned With Senate Education Committee

Betsy DeVos talks with a student during a school visit.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is hitting the road.

DeVos will start her back-to-school tour in Wyoming Tuesday. She’ll also make stops in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana between Tuesday and Friday, at “innovative educational settings across the United States that are fundamentally rethinking ‘school,’ ” according to a release from the Education Department.

She’ll visit the Woods Learning Center in Casper, a small public elementary-middle school, in the morning and St. Stephens Indian High School, part of a now-K-12 Bureau of Indian Education campus that was founded more than 120 years ago on the Wind River Reservation.

(The 74: Bureau of Indian Education Dressed Down in Senate Hearing)

There are so many new and exciting ways state-based education leaders and advocates are truly rethinking education,” DeVos said in a press release. “It is our goal with this tour to highlight what’s working. We want to encourage local education leaders to continue to be creative, to empower parents with options and to expand student-centered education opportunities.”

(The 74 Special Report: Reinventing America’s Schools)

Other details of DeVos’s schedule for the “Rethink School” tour were sparse, but the six states on her list align with the Senate committees that will oversee her work. Senators from Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Indiana sit on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee shepherding implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, chairs the subcommittee that oversees the department’s funding.

Beyond the Tuesday kickoff in Wyoming (see Mark Keierleber’s rundown of 5 things to know about Wyoming education ahead of DeVos’s visit), it was not clear on which days she would be in which state, where she’ll stop, or whether those schools will include pre-K, K-12, or higher education, or whether they’ll be public, private, or charters. The Education Department did not return emails or phone calls seeking additional details. 

In Missouri, she could visit the Kansas City Academy, a private middle and high school with an arts focus that’s known for its acceptance of students with a wide range of sexual and gender identities, according to The Kansas City Star.

And in Nebraska, officials with the Lincoln Public Schools said the visit was still tentative, but federal officials had requested to visit a science-focused program run through the Lincoln Zoo, according to the Lincoln Star.

DeVos so far has visited 24 pre-K–12 schools, including six private, six charter, and 12 traditional public schools, plus five colleges. She also gave the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Florida, this year.

Former education secretary Arne Duncan started the back-to-school bus tour in 2010, and he and successor John King made the trip every year. Previous events were:

• 2016: “Opportunity Across America” tour in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana

• 2015: “Ready for Success” tour in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania

• 2014: “Partners in Progress” tour in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee

• 2013: “Strong Start, Bright Future” tour in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California

• 2012: “Education Drives America” tour in Nevada, California, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, and Virginia

• 2011: “Education and the Economy” tour in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois

• 2010: “Courage in the Classroom” tour, with a first leg in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and a second leg in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine

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