While public schools discuss reopenings amid the coronavirus pandemic, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is sitting at home in Michigan.
According to NBC News, DeVos owns a sprawling waterfront estate with an around-the-clock security detail paid for by taxpayers. At the same time, DeVos has been a hardline advocate of President Trump’s demand that schools reopen in full and in person, which could put millions of teachers and students at risk of infection.
Many education advocates are looking at the education secretary to offer guidelines to public schools as they struggle with the immense challenges of reopening during a pandemic. However, DeVos told the Washington Examiner in June she’s been working remotely from home with a public schedule that has been mostly empty for the past several weeks, including no events on her public schedule for this week.
The conservative site, the Federalist Society said DeVos has been holding events not listed on her public calendar, including several sponsored by the conservative site. The education secretary has also participated in a few events for private schools and advocacy for vouchers, including a roundtable July 23 at a private Christian school in Ohio.
Additionally, DeVos’ office told NBC she has been in constant contact with governors and state superintendents virtually and in person.
However, Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for advocacy at The School Superintendents Association, which represents public school superintendents in 49 states, said the group hasn’t heard from DeVos once this year.
“We would stand ready to answer that call. That’s my job, to be a direct liaison to the federal government,” Ng told NBC.
State officials are also looking for guidance from DeVos. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told MSNBC Friday he still doesn’t know “what, if anything, the feds are going to do to help.”
On July 29, DeVos and Vice President Mike Pence visited a classroom at Thales Academy, a network of private nonsectarian community schools in North Carolina.
“Thales is a great example more schools could emulate,” DeVos said during the visit. “You didn’t wait for guidance from the Department of Education. You didn’t ask for permission.”
Days later, several fourth-grade students were asked to quarantine after a student tested positive for -coronavirus. Additionally, Georgia’s largest school district, which was set to return to in-person learning, was forced to retreat back to virtual instruction, after more than 250 district school employees were excluded from work due to a positive case or contact with a case.
Still, DeVos continues to echo President Trump’s demand that public schools reopen for in-person instruction, regardless of the levels of infection in their communities. She also insists that it isn’t her job to help localities determine how to do so safely.