PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Outgoing U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King said Monday “issues of equity” remain a challenge for the nation’s schools, but urged the Trump administration and Congress to build on the progress made under President Obama over the last eight years.
During morning visits to West Warwick High School and the Providence Career and Technical Academy (PCTA), King heaped praise on Gov. Gina Raimondo for making Rhode Island a “national model” for computer science programming and investing in career and technical education.
“We as a country ought to be looking to build on what’s working and expanding those opportunities,” King told reporters after touring PCTA.
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President-elect Donald Trump has already said he’ll nominate wealthy Michigan Republican Betsy DeVos to succeed King as secretary of education. DeVos is an outspoken critic of the Common Core State Standards and a supporter of school vouchers, which allow students to attend private schools at the expense of taxpayers.
Public school officials around the country have expressed fear that Trump and DeVos could dramatically overhaul federal funding to districts, but no plans have been released. On his campaign website, Trump pledged to invest an extra $20 billion toward school choice, with more funding going toward states that have “private school choice, magnet schools and charter laws.”
King, who served as New York’s education commissioner until joining the U.S. Dept. of Education in 2015, stopped short of discussing the Trump administration’s priorities, but said he supports investing in “public education.”
“Public education is fundamental for the long-term success not only of our economy, but of our democracy,” he said. “So we’ve got to be very attentive as a country to how we are ensuring that every child, regardless of zip code, regardless of race, has access to the full range of opportunity.”
As part of King’s visit, Raimondo announced that Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University, the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College have all agreed to offer a web development minor to students.
Raimondo has also led the charge on requiring every public school in the state to offer computer science programs by next year. She has said the goal is to build a more skilled workforce.
Raimondo acknowledged she has concerns that Trump and DeVos will attempt to change the way education is funded in the country, but said she is focused on ensuring the state is partnering with local businesses to work with students. She noted that students at PCTA who complete a welding program would be great candidates for jobs at Electric Boat.
“I’m not letting President Trump roll that back,” she said.