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Betsy DeVos Visits the Koch Brothers… and No One Knew Until Later

October 11, 2018

Suzanne Perez Tobias, the Wichita Eagle’s education reporter, wrote a “just-the-facts” article earlier this week describing Betsy DeVos’ recent visit to that city. And who was she visiting? Why the privatization movement’s major underwriters: the Koch Brothers!

The nation’s top education official was at Koch Industries in Wichita on Monday, Oct. 1, in a visit that was not announced to local school district leaders or media.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos met with “a small group” of teachers, students and representatives of Youth Entrepreneurs, a Wichita-based non-profit group founded by Charles and Liz Koch, said an official with the organization.

“Our Youth Entrepreneurs team was asked to host Secretary DeVos and explain the impact on more than 30,000 alumni since the start of our program,” said Lois Hairston, communications manager for Youth Entrepreneurs in an e-mailed statement.

Hairston did not say how many people attended the meeting or whether DeVos visited any local schools or other sites.

“We do not know the details of the Secretary’s visit,” she said in an e-mail.

Neither Youth Entrepreneurs nor the U.S. Department of Education issued a news release about the event.

The secretary’s online schedule noted “no public events” on Monday or Tuesday.

Wendy Johnson, spokeswoman for Wichita public schools, said neither Superintendent Alicia Thompson nor other district officials were told about DeVos’s visit. Officials with public school districts in Maize, Derby, Goddard, Andover and Valley Center also said they didn’t know the secretary was in town.

And why was the visit kept under wraps?

After a reporter contacted Kliewer (who advises the Youth Entrepreneurs chapter at Campus High) seeking information about DeVos’s visit, “He got a call from somebody with the Kochs, and they said, ‘We would prefer not to have any media coverage,’” Burke said.

I’m sure the Koch brothers would prefer not to have any media coverage… but in publicly funded organizations overseen by elected boards media coverage is part of the landscape. Taxpayers want to know how their administrators are spending their time and, particularly in this case, who they are spending their time with. But once the schools are privatized, all of that will disappear.

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