America Must Transform Education to Serve the Needs of Individual Students

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos delivered keynote remarks to the American Federation for Children's National Policy Summit. The Secretary introduced the school choice plan, urging state leaders to invest in individual students and empower parents, while outlining the intent to support state-based solutions.

"If you hear nothing else I say tonight, please hear this – education should not be a partisan issue. Sure, various approaches to education policy should be hotly debated, and they certainly are. "But, making sure that all of our kids get a great education – how could it be a partisan issue? Everyone – in both parties – should support equal opportunity in education, regardless of a child's income, zip code or family circumstances.

"The time has expired for 'reform'. We need a transformation – a transformation that will open up America's closed and antiquated education system.

"If we really want to help students, then we need to focus everything about education on individual students – funding, supporting and investing in them. Not in buildings; not in systems. ...

"In order to succeed, education must commit to excellence and innovation to better meet the needs of individual students. Defenders of our current system have regularly been resistant to any meaningful change. In resisting, these 'flat-earthers' have chilled creativity and stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels. Our current framework is a closed system that relies on one-size-fits-all solutions. We need an open system that envelopes choices and embraces the future. ...

"We shouldn't view this, however, as a chance to mandate a one-size-fits-all school choice proposal. 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. We should have zero interest in substituting the current big government approach for our own big government approach.

"When it comes to education, no solution, not even ones we like, should be dictated or run from Washington, DC. ...

"I firmly believe every state should provide choices and embrace equal opportunity in education. But those are decisions states must make. No two states are the same and no two states' approaches will be the same – and that's a good thing. States are the best laboratories of our democracy. ...

"The drive for education choice started in the states, and it was started by caring parents from every race and political party. ...

"The President is proposing the most ambitious expansion of education choice in our nation's history. The proposal's aim is to empower states and give leaders like Gov. Eric Holcomb the flexibility and opportunity to enhance the choices Indiana provides for Indiana students.

"If a state doesn't want to participate, that would be a terrible mistake on their part. They will be hurting the children and families who can least afford it. If politicians in a state block education choice, it means those politicians do not support equal opportunity for all kids. They'll be the ones who will have to explain to their constituent parents why they are denying their fundamental right to choose what type of education is best for their child. ...

"These students – and millions and millions more just like them – from every race, from every background, from our cities, our suburbs and rural America – they are why we care; they are why we fight; they are why we will never, ever back down in our effort to give them the great education they deserve."