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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Betsy DeVos highlights Valencia's programs during Kissimmee visit

Posted By on Sun, Mar 26, 2017 at 2:11 PM

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
During her first solo trip as U.S. education secretary, Betsy DeVos highlighted Valencia College's manufacturing and dual-enrollment programs.

DeVos, who was met with boos the last time she was in Central Florida, spent the day in Kissimmee on Friday with little protest as she learned about the community college's success in helping non-traditional students in affordable ways.

"Community colleges are a tremendous option and a tremendous on ramp for many students," DeVos says. "We need to do a much better job of highlighting the important work they do across this country to help students achieve their goals and abilities."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
DeVos first visited Valencia's Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, where she saw mechanical lab demonstrations and listened to students and business owners who talked about the program's effectiveness. Lockheed Martin vice president Pat Sunderlin called the program a "poster child" that DeVos needed to see. Samantha Rogers, a student, told DeVos she was working at IHOP as a dishwasher before she started the construction program. Now, she works at Jr. Davis Construction Company as a dump truck driver and earns significantly more than in her restaurant days.

"Working for Junior has been amazing," Rogers says. "I'm a single mom, so it made it a little easier for me to provide for my children."

DeVos then ventured over to Valencia's Osceola campus where she talked to high school students enrolled in the dual-enrollment program, which allows them to complete college courses for credit.

Farrah Lubin, a junior at Poinciana High School enrolled in the program, says her main reason for taking early college classes was to help her parents financially. Ultimately, she wants to become a physician.

"I know that requires a lot of years of continuous education," Lubin says. "Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a high income, so this has actually helped my parents out."

DeVos spoke briefly about President Donald Trump's planned cuts to the federal Education Department. The proposed 2018 budget includes a $9 billion cut for the department, which includes eliminating a $2.25 billion program that trains teachers in high-need schools and $732 million grant program that helps needy college students. Trump's budget, though, does add significant amounts of funding toward "school choice" programs, including a $168 million increase for charters; $250 million for private school choice programs; and $1 billion increase for promoting school choice at high-poverty schools. Critics have accused the Michigan billionaire and Trump of trying to gut the public education system by steering more taxpayer money toward school choice options.

"The president’s budget is investing in education that works and education that will actually help advance students," she says. "Stay tuned."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

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