U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gets up from interacting with preschool students in Laura Foster’s class in April. Her visit brought national and regional news reporters to Van Wert. (DHI Media/File photo)
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gets up from interacting with preschool students in Laura Foster’s class in April. Her visit brought national and regional news reporters to Van Wert. (DHI Media/File photo)

VAN WERT – In April Van Wert was in the national spotlight when it was announced that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would be visiting Van Wert City Schools on Thursday, April 20.

The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten extended the invitation to show DeVos what a public school in a rural town can do for youth.

Upon arrival, DeVos was met with peaceful protesters from the area who held signs in support of public education and denounced funding cuts that the current administration planed to make to the public sector while increasing funds to private schools.

In a widely-shared opinion piece prior to DeVos’s visit, Weingarten shared that, “Public education is the foundation of our democracy and the center of most communities. Public schools provide a pathway to opportunity for kids; for many, it’s the only pathway they have access to. It’s our obligation—all of us, regardless of party or ideology—to ensure our public schools are places where students find joy and success.”

She hoped that DeVos’s visit would show her that public education is essential for communities such as Van Wert and that they produce successful adults. She hoped the visit would convince DeVos to re-look at the budge cuts to public education.

To start her day, DeVos heard presentations from three senior students at Van Wert High School who had raised over $11,000 for the Van Wert Blessings program that sends food home with children over the weekend.

After that, DeVos and Weingarten took a tour of the Van Wert Early Childhood Center and took part in a discussion between preschool and kindergarten teachers.

The day also included a stop at Van Wert High School where DeVos and Weingarten learned about the school’s robotics groups. From there, they took a tour of a Van Wert Elementary class.

The day ended with a round-table discussion with special education teachers which was followed by a brief question and answer segment. In attendance were big-time news sources like Politico, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

“It’s been a very inspiring and wonderful day,” DeVos during her visit back in April. “It is clear that this community has invested heart and soul into the students here and the students that you serve. I am just so grateful to have had the opportunity to see and to learn from you and especially, it is my favorite to see the students, of course. They are clearly just having an amazing experience here.”