Education

Kentucky’s Teacher of the Year skipped White House ceremony. Here’s why.

Betsy DeVos hosts roundtable discussion on school choice in Kentucky

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin at a roundtable discussion at Bluegrass Community & Technical College.
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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin at a roundtable discussion at Bluegrass Community & Technical College.

Jessica Duenas, Kentucky’s 2019 teacher of the year, did not attend a formal ceremony at the White House this week in protest of the Trump Administration’s support of school choice and its stance on immigration, she said Tuesday.

President Donald Trump was not at Monday’s event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington D.C., but U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was, according to the Associated Press.

Duenas, a former Oldham County teacher who now works for Jefferson County Schools, said in a statement to the Herald-Leader that “I did not attend because of the current administration’s approach toward immigrants and the narrative they put out about immigrant families including the lack of reconciliation of children separated at the border.” Also, said Duenas, “the administration is in support of privatization of schools.”

She noted that recently when “DeVos came to Kentucky she did not seek to hear the perspective of any public school representative when having a round table discussion” with Gov. Matt Bevin and Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis.

Student journalists at Lexington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School received national attention when they wrote in an editorial that they were not allowed into the event on Lexington’s Bluegrass Community and Technical College campus. A representative for DeVos told the Herald-Leader earlier this month that officials from the federal education department were unaware of the students’ request and would have welcomed them.

This week, Duenas is in Washington D.C. with other state winners of the Teacher of the Year award.

Duenas told the Louisville Courier-Journal that “I feel like the current administration is clearly attacking public education. Why come to D.C. and smile and get an award and not stand up for my students?”

A 2018 news release from the Kentucky Department of Education said Duenas was a 10-year teaching veteran.

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