Secretary Betsy DeVos pitches 'Education Freedom Scholarships' in Milwaukee, draws protests

MILWAUKEE -- U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Monday, Sept. 16 kicked off her 2019 Back-to-School Tour in Milwaukee. She said parents and students deserve more -- and made her pitch for a new policy called Education Freedom Scholarships.

Secretary DeVos visited St. Marcus Lutheran School, a school that serves 900 students. Nearly all of the students at St. Marcus benefit from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

"Education freedom policies work. We just need more of them -- many more," DeVos said.

Taxpayers would voluntarily contribute to what are being called Education Freedom Scholarships in exchange for a dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit. Each state can decide whether to participate -- and how to select eligible students and education providers.

"Think of Education Freedom Scholarships as keys to unlocking the opportunities you want to pursue," DeVos said.

DeVos' pitch drew cheers inside the St. Marcus gymnasium, but outrage from protestors outside.

"Betsy DeVos needs to stop attacking public schools," said Ben Wikler, Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Since Milwaukee started its voucher program 30 years ago, critics say it has only hurt local kids, pulling tax dollars out of already cash-strapped classrooms.

"Every single child deserves a well-resourced, free, public education," said Amy Mizialko, president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association (MTEA).

They argue taxpayers are not getting value for their money because private and charter schools are not held to a high enough standard.

"The schools that are taking money and not doing the job they should be doing. They should not be getting this money," said Chris Walton, a protestor.

DeVos said that is why Education Freedom Scholarships will be successful -- because parents, not Washington, decide which classrooms are best.

This is the third year Secretary DeVos has embarked on a Back-to-School Tour to highlight learning environments where local educators and elected leaders are rethinking education.

To learn more about the Education Freedom Scholarships proposal, visit