Pleasant Valley schools urging Betsy DeVos to support public education

BETTENDORF -

After confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, local school districts are closely watching her actions in office.

Sixth graders at Riverdale Heights Elementary School on February 8, 2017, represent more than 90% of Iowa kids that attend public schools.

"Funding is a big issue right now," said Dr. Jim Spelhaug, who serves as superintendent in the district of about 4,500 students.

This district is already bracing to get about half the state funding increase it expected.

Now, there's more uncertainty after DeVos took office.

"She has been appointed as the secretary, and now the proof is going to be in the pudding," he continued.

DeVos advocates for school choice.  The Trump administration pushes school vouchers.  That could threaten standards and foundations for public schools.

"If these start to deteriorate, to be undermined, absolutely, then it is a dark day," Dr. Spelhaug said.

For area school districts trying to make ends meet, DeVos' strategy could take away even more funding.

While Iowa already embraces school choice, there are worries about more cuts to public schools.

Dr. Spelhaug points out that a significant amount of federal funding already supports alternative education.

"How much more public dollars ought to go to subsidize this?" he asked.

This district will be watching to see how DeVos advocates for public education.

Dr. Spelhaug wants to know whether she'll value input from school leaders, thinkers and people of good will.

He emphasizes that education must not exclude.

"They are not just interested in the education of a few, but rather, the education for everybody," he concluded.

His sixth graders at Riverdale Heights are depending on it.