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Top DeVos Deputy Dismisses Criticism of Her Choice Plan As ‘Fearmongering’

A senior official in the U.S. Department of Education has dismissed concerns about a Trump administration school choice plan from a conservative think tank as “outright fear-mongering.” 

Jim Blew, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, dismissed the criticisms from the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank that strongly supports educational choice, during a discussion at the Education Writers Association National Seminar on Tuesday. 

DeVos has teamed up with GOP lawmakers to back legislation creating $5 billion in annual tax credits to catalyze state school choice efforts. If Congress approves it, the Education Freedom Scholarships would provide dollar-for-dollar federal tax credits to individuals and businesses that contribute to scholarships for private schools and various educational services. They argue the plan would give families options in areas where traditional public schools aren’t meeting their children’s needs. And states would be free to opt out of the program, they say.

But Heritage, which is often aligned with the Trump administration on policy issues, has argued that future administrations could tie strings to the tax credits, giving them more say over what happens in public schools. Its concerns come as DeVos has spent her tenure reversing Obama-era directives on civil rights issues, like transgender students and school discipline, that were viewed as federal overreach by many on the right. In short, Heritage believes that however well-intentioned any proposal might be, school choice should simply not be a federal issue.