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School District Pulls Resolution To Invite Betsy DeVos To San Diego

Above: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos addresses the department staff at the Department of Education on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.

Aired 2/14/17 on KPBS News.

A proposal to invite new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to San Diego to showcase public school successes was yanked from a school board agenda because of the "polarizing nature" of her nomination and confirmation, the president of the San Diego Unified School District said Monday.

A proposal to invite new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to San Diego to showcase public school successes was yanked from a school board agenda because of the "polarizing nature" of her nomination and confirmation, the president of the San Diego Unified School District said Monday.

In a statement, Richard Barrera said he and fellow Trustee John Lee Evans planned to co-sponsor a resolution at Tuesday's board meeting to invite DeVos, an advocate of charter schools, here to challenge "her narrow ideologically driven view" that doesn't stand up to the facts.

"Given the polarizing nature of the DeVos nomination and confirmation vote, however, it is clear this would be the wrong time to engage the secretary in dialogue," Barrera said. "Now is the time for those of us who believe in public education to stand together and confront the threat clearly posed by the DeVos ideology."

Barrera, also secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, apologized to those who felt "excluded" by his moving quickly on the plan.

The decision came after an outpouring of frustration from teachers over the weekend.

"All of that distrust and fear and confusion on how somebody like that could be the secretary of education is still very fresh on people's minds," said Lindsay Burningham, president of the San Diego Education Association President. She said teachers began reaching out to her after the board posted its agenda with the resolution Friday.

"I think people were caught off guard with the district's resolution because nobody knew anything about it," Burningham said. She added that such a visit would be an unwelcome distraction as personnel await a decision on how the district will close a $124 million budget gap. Staff are expected to share their plan Feb. 21.

DeVos was confirmed last week when Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50- 50 tie vote in the Senate. All 48 Democrats voted against her, as did two Republicans, in the face of strong opposition by teachers unions and supporters of public schools.

It was the first time a cabinet secretary has been confirmed on a tie-breaking vote by the vice president.

DeVos previously served in leadership roles for several groups that advocate for school choice and vouchers that help students pay for a private education.

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