BALTIMORE ― While addressing an audience at the Education Writers Association conference here on Monday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said she never imagined she would be the focus of so much public attention.
“I don’t enjoy the publicity that comes with my position,” said DeVos, who has been one of President Donald Trump’s most controversial Cabinet secretaries. “I don’t love being up on stage or on any kind of platform. I’m an introvert.”
She said she also believes the media uses her “name as clickbait.”
“As much as many in the media use my name as clickbait or try to make it all about me, it’s not,” she said. “Education is not about Betsy DeVos nor any other individual.”
It was DeVos’ first time appearing at the Education Writers Association annual national seminar, although she had been invited to it since taking office. Former President Barack Obama’s two education secretaries attended the event every year.
DeVos used the speech to promote her signature priority: the expansion of school choice programs. She pushed her proposal for Education Freedom Scholarships, which has been bolstered through legislation led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and would incentivize states to create programs that would subsidize individual scholarships for school choice.
Under this piece of legislation, individuals and businesses could receive tax credits for donating to organizations that grant scholarships. These organizations could then provide scholarships to students to help them pay for education-related costs, like private school.
It would be up to states, though, to shape what exactly their program would look like.
“While it is true that 90% of students today are enrolled in traditional public schools, it’s also true that 60% of their parents say they would prefer something different if only they had the freedom to choose,” DeVos said in her speech.
During a question-and-answer session that followed the speech, DeVos noted that she was talking to both Democrats and Republicans about supporting the proposal.
Opponents have called the proposed scholarship an attack on public education that is designed to push students to private schools. DeVos previously has pushed back on such criticism, calling it “fake news.”
DeVos, who has spent more than two years on the job, has been one of Trump’s longest-lasting Cabinet secretaries. But when asked whether she would stay on for four more years if asked, she joked that she’s not sure her husband would sign on for it.