On April 17th, the Republican governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin held a round-table discussion on education in Lexington, Kentucky with US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos helping to lead the discussion alongside him.
The roundtable was to be focused on the discussion of freedom scholarships, a proposal by DeVos where privately funded scholarships would be administered to families through state programs. These scholarships would then allow families increased opportunity for their child to attend a private or religious based primary and secondary school instead of being put into the public school system.
“Privately funded scholarships improve the educational experiences of students across the country, without taking a single dollar away from public schools and the students who attend them” the Education Department stated on their website.
Both individuals and business taxpayers are allowed to give non-refundable donations to state-based freedom scholarship programs where they will be eligible for tax credit up to the amount donated. For instance, if a corporation was to donate $1 million to these state programs, they will be eligible for a $1 million return in the form of tax credit.
The discussions led by DeVos and Bevin were advertised for families, educators, stakeholders and local elected leaders in the area, but the time of the discussions were put at 11 am and 1:30 pm where many of the advertised parties could not be in attendance.
On top of this, the website was updated and the information on the event was put out to the area just over 24 hours before the event took place. This made it difficult for many media outlets to RSVP including a local high school that was entirely barred from the event. This was due to the high schoolers believing an RSVP was not necessary since they were not credentialed journalists.
Critics of DeVos have denounced the round-table as an example of false advertising since the event was deemed open press but was not completely open to all press. On top of this, critics are saying both the timing and the release of the information was done in an effort to keep those against the policies away from the round-table discussion.
Those in support of DeVos have stated that it did note on the website that an RSVP was required and therefore the security at the event held every right to bar media attempting to come in.
Ultimately, the discussion produced little for the Lexington community as an open discourse was not fully achieved. DeVos is seeking up to $5 billion in donations with the Trump Administration’s 2020 budget plan allowing $5 billion in tax expenditure for the credit return.