Betsy DeVos, teachers union chief air differences

In this April 11, 2017 file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is seen in the State Department Library of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


VAN WERT, Ohio (AP/WOOD) — Despite their best efforts, tension was on display between Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the head of a national teachers union during their tour of public schools in the northwest Ohio town of Van Wert.

DeVos and the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, had sought to put aside partisan views of education issues. But they emerged anyway during a news conference Thursday.

DeVos promoted school choice and said families need to have options other than traditional public schools. Meanwhile, Weingarten complained about budget cuts to crucial education programs.

Weingarten said cuts to afterschool programs will be harmful to the Van Wert community and others. In the past she has accused DeVos of “antipathy for public schools” and favoring private and for-profit schools.

Thursday, the union president seemed pleased that DeVos had made the trip.

“I want to also say thank you to the secretary of education. You have all written in some way, form or another that we are combatants. You learn how to do this work by doing this work,” Weingarten said to journalists. “As my kids at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, New York used to say to me often, don’t just talk the talk — walk the walk.”

For her part, DeVos seemed eager to do more with the union group.

“When I reached out to Randi right after my confirmation, she was very quick to offer the opportunity to come and tour a school with her. I have offered her the same and look forward to that opportunity in the future,” DeVos said.

DeVos was opposed by many education groups. She was approved in the Senate by the narrowest possible margin which required a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.