Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is set to speak at an historically black college’s (HBCU) graduation ceremony later in May after sparking controversy for saying HBCUs were “pioneers” of “school choice.”
Betsy DeVos will speak at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida on May 10 after calling HBCUs “the real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” She added they are “living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality” during a speech in February, according to Politico.
HBCU leaders and others viewed her remarks as uninformed and indicative of whitewashing, since the government previously made black Americans attend HBCUs.
DeVos clarified her view at an HBCU luncheon later in February.
“During her remarkable 79 years on this earth, Mary Bethune fought for one singular and indispensable goal: to provide African-American children access to a quality education,” the secretary of education said, reported Politico. “Today, Bethune-Cookman University in Florida remains a thriving member of the HBCU community and continues to stand as a legacy to Mary’s commitment to students.”
Bethune-Cookman’s decision to invite DeVos has garnered criticism on social media.
— Horace Towns (@thehoracetowns) April 30, 2017
A Change.org petition calls upon Bethune-Cookman to rescind DeVos’s invitation to speak. The petition had nearly 2,500 signatures at the time of publication.
“Much like Dr. Bethune, Founder of Bethune-Cookman University, Secretary DeVos deems the importance of opportunity and hope for students to receive an exceptional education experience,” said Ursula James, the university’s director of communications in a press release sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Students are directly impacted by funding dollars that are dispersed through the Department of Education. B-CU receives $4 million annually through Title III, which supports teaching, research and infrastructure.”
“Over the years, the DeVos family has supported Central Florida through several charitable efforts: 100 Black Men of Central Florida; Jones High School, and the Parramore neighborhood located in Orlando to name a few. Secretary DeVos has supported educational opportunities for students in over 25 states. ”
TheDCNF reached out to the Department of Education for comment, but received none in time for publication.
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