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Bernnie Federko

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Predecessors try to fill void left by DeVos

Two former education secretaries, of both parties, are taking leads in talks about safely returning children to school in the fall, Alayna Treene writes.

  • Why it matters: The engagement by Margaret Spellings and Arne Duncan contrasts with the lack of visibility by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Some education leaders complain of a vacuum in federal leadership at a time when schools need help.
Spellings, who was education secretary under President George W. Bush, and Duncan, who served under President Obama, are becoming more active:

  • Duncan leads a weekly call with superintendents, and has been helping distribute meals. (See a video of Arne Duncan talking to Alayna Treene.)
  • Spellings — former president of the UNC System, now CEO of the nonprofit Texas 2036 — said DeVos "has not had as high a profile as some of the others of us. And that's been consistently true during her service ... I think people want to see her." (See a video of Margaret Spellings talking to Alayna Treene.)
DeVos declined an interview request.

  • In an emailed statement, spokeswoman Angela Morabito said that “Secretary DeVos hasn’t stepped back — she’s stepped up."
  • DeVos' office provided Axios with a five-page list detailing her COVID-19 response.
The bottom line ... Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, tells Axios:

  • "There's three national crises that are going on — a pandemic, a recession and systemic racism. All of these things are going to show up in the anxiety that kids have when they walk through the doors in September."
 
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