WNPR

U.S. Education Secretary to Future Administrations: "Protect All Students"

Dec 26, 2016

The U.S. Secretary of Education said there's a few things the upcoming administration should do to continue the work completed over the last eights years.  

In an interview prior to his visit to Central Connecticut State University, Secretary John King stopped short of commenting on what could happen under Donald Trump and his nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos. But he did offer some advice for future leaders of the nation's top education post.

"The department is a civil rights agency," King said, "with a responsibility to protect the rights of all students. And we've got to be vigilant to ensure that all students feel safe at school, feel welcome at school. Again, regardless of their race or their religion or their sexual orientation or their gender identify. That's the historic role of the department: protecting our students."

But critics of DeVos have said she's more likely to dismantle much of what's been built over the last eight years than build on it.

As a billionaire from a wealthy family, her connections to corporate interests and her expressed desire to teach creationism has many public school advocates concerned. She's also a champion of charter schools and vouchers, which use public money to pay for private schools.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence is also an avid voucher proponent, having spent hundreds of millions of public dollars on religious private schools in his home state of Indiana.

Concerns have also been expressed about Trump's plan to deport 11 million people who are in the country illegally. This includes over a million children -- many of them here through a special visa program that advocates worry could be used to identify and deport them under a Trump administration.

King said all students should be supported, including those who might be here illegally.

"I think it would be a terrible mistake to go backwards," he said, "when we know that these students are benefiting from the access to higher education opportunities and employment, and their communities are benefiting, because as they develop themselves, they're able to contribute more to the community."

King's visit to Connecticut was his last stop in a tour across the country, talking about programs that support at-risk youth and promote equity and opportunity.