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US education secretary visits alternative schools in Alaska

August 27, 2019

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. education secretary is touring Alaska to see how communities use alternatives to traditional K-12 public schooling, a report said.

The trip this week is the first visit to Alaska by Secretary Betsy DeVos, Alaska Public Media reported Monday.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy hosted DeVos at Mat-Su Central School in Wasilla, a public alternative school that focuses on individual student outcomes. The school coordinates with district and charter schools and other private options to build curricula around students, officials said.

DeVos is a champion of school vouchers and charter schools and said the Mat-Su model could serve as a template for rural communities.

Responding to a question for DeVos, Dunleavy said alternative schools would not look like boarding schools. Many Native communities oppose them.

“Some of those trepidations are probably steeped in history when kids were forced to go to a boarding school, or forced to do something that they or their parents didn’t want to have happen,” Dunleavy said. “That’s an era we’re not dealing with now.”

Village schooling alternatives could implement local culture in a robust manner, DeVos said.

“I think the opportunity to actually embrace and celebrate the culture and the experience of some of the indigenous people is one focus of how to rethink education and think about it anew,” DeVos said.

DeVos also visited American Charter Academy in the Mat-Su Borough with Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who voted against her confirmation as education secretary because of concerns about DeVos’s lack of experience with public schools and Alaska.

DeVos is scheduled to visit Anchorage, Nome and Kotzebue.

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Information from: KSKA-FM, http://www.kska.org

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