Betsy DeVos Softens Her Message, But Not Goals, on School Choice

February 8, 2018 AT 10:00 AM

Betsy DeVos became famous — and infamous in some quarters — as the leader of an education movement that pushed for public funding for private schools, including religious education.

But a year into her tenure as President Donald Trump’s Education secretary, DeVos generally steers clear of the words, “school choice,” a phrase she once used often that's freighted with racial, demographic and religious implications. Instead, she opts for gentler terms such as “innovation” and “blended learning,” and speaks of coming together and “finding solutions.”

DeVos has by no means backed off her push to fulfill Trump’s promise to inject $20 billion into expanded private education options for kids. But one of the most divisive figures in Trump's Cabinet, hated by teachers unions and progressives as Public School Enemy No. 1, has figured out how to market that effort differently.

Behind the scenes, DeVos met with Frank Luntz, one of the top Republican messaging experts, to figure out how to talk about conservative educational policies without sparking protests from teachers and liberals.

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