U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will visit schools in Casper and on the Wind River Reservation on Tuesday on her first stop of a six-state tour.
The trip is part of her “Rethink School” tour, according to a education department press release. The goal of the visits is to “showcase creative ways in which education leaders are meeting the needs of students in K-12 and higher education.”
DeVos will visit Woods Learning Center between 8:30 and 10 a.m. She’ll be at St. Stephens Indian High School on the reservation from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
“There are so many new and exciting ways state-based education leaders and advocates are truly rethinking education,” DeVos said in the press release. “It is our goal with this tour to highlight what’s working. We want to encourage local education leaders to continue to be creative, to empower parents with options and to expand student-centered education opportunities.”
The tour will also include stops in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana.
Jane Ifland, the coordinator for progressive group Indivisible Casper, said the group is planning a protest of DeVos’ visit. She mentioned DeVos’ support for voucher schools, DeVos’ support for guns in schools and what Ifland called DeVos’ attacks on Title IX programs as reasons for the protest.
During her confirmation hearings, DeVos famously said schools in Wyoming may have guns to protect them from grizzly bears. Ifland said there may be some “ironic grizzlies” at the protest, meaning people dressed in bear costumes.
“These core policies have failed in Detroit,” Ifland said of voucher programs. “We already have tried this, and it doesn’t work.”
Previously a Michigan-based philanthropist, DeVos has been a vocal supporter of charter schools and school choice in the past. Wyoming has a handful of such institutions, though none is in Casper. A proposal to open a charter school here was shot down by the Natrona County School District board of trustees last year.
Natrona County is a district of choice, meaning students and families can decide which school within the county they want to attend, regardless of where they live.
Ifland said she wasn’t sure how many people would participate in the protest. Because the visit was announced in an education department release on Monday morning — less than 24 hours ahead of DeVos’ visit — Ifland criticized how DeVos’ trip was been handled and accused her of “sneaking” into Casper.
Kari Eakins, spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Education, said officials found out a couple of weeks ago there was a chance DeVos would visit Wyoming. Last week, they learned it was very likely.