Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos speak at Wisconsin Capitol to Promote School Choice Programs

January 28, 2020 Updated: January 28, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke in Madison, Wisconsin, on Jan. 28 as students and parents were celebrating this year’s National School Choice Week.

The event at Wisconsin’s State Capitol was organized by Hispanics for School Choice, a non-profit organization that aims to help families gain access to and information on education options outside the public school system—a major focus of DeVos and her department.

DeVos said the National School Choice Week is not only an opportunity for parents and students to celebrate the freedom to choose the education they consider best for them, but also a time to think about and continue to fight for those who don’t have such freedom.

“Education shouldn’t be determined by luck, or by address, or by family income,” said the Education Secretary. “Education shouldn’t be an old-school one-size-fits-all experience. Every student is unique, and every student learns differently.”

DeVos added that her department is advancing an education freedom agenda, which centers around giving the right to choose back to parents, students, educators, and their communities. “Students in control of their pathway to a successful education, career, and life. Families in control of how, when, and where their students will learn best. Teachers in control of their classrooms and their careers. States and communities—not Washington, D.C.—in control of local decisions,” she explained.

Mike Pence, who visited the swing state again two weeks after he accompanied President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Milwaukee delivered a brief speech following DeVos’ remark to reaffirm to the audience that the White House supports the cause.

“I’m here to tell you, President Donald Trump stands for school choice for every American and every American family,” said Pence. “In fact, as a candidate, President Trump promised the American people that he would be the nation’s biggest advocate for school choice.”

Pence and DeVos were joined by former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican and renowned school choice pioneer whose administration launched in 1989 a modern school vouchers program targeting students from low-income households in the Milwaukee School District, the very first of its kind in the United States. Wisconsin’s private school choice programs currently enroll more than 40,000 students, and over 40,000 students are participating in charter school programs.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, however, said prior to the event that he would not be present at the statehouse for vice president’s visit.

Pence noted the governor’s absence as he mentioned a Democrat-sponsored bill pending in the state legislature, that would dismantle the state’s school voucher program.

“I know the governor couldn’t be here with us today, so let’s make sure he hears this: We’re not going to let that happen,” said Pence.

Formally known as Public Education Reinvestment Act, the bill was introduced on the same day when school choice supporters welcomed Pence and DeVos, despite it is considered to have little chance of passing since Republican lawmakers control both houses of the state legislature.