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In her first months as education secretary, Betsy DeVos met with lawmakers, pollsters, and Peter Thiel

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in March.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in March.

Betsy DeVos spent a trip to California this summer having breakfast with Peter Thiel and visiting start-ups aimed at reshaping education.

That’s according to the detailed schedule of the U.S. Education Secretary’s first months on the job, obtained through a records request and posted online this week by the website AltGov2. (The education department did not respond to questions about the schedule, which aligns with the secretary’s public events for those months.)

The schedule, which runs to more than 300 pages, includes calls and meetings with education power brokers, including Republican lawmakers, heads of foundations, charter school leaders, and state schools chiefs.

Some of the meetings reveal more about how DeVos is trying to push her school-choice agenda. Here are a few items of note from the schedule, which ends on July 19:

  • DeVos may not have called Arne Duncan after taking the job, but she did talk to other former education secretaries. She had calls or meetings with Bill Bennett, who served under President Reagan, and with Margaret Spellings and Rod Paige, who served under President George W. Bush.
  • She’s heard from some opposing voices … The topic for a call with the National Alliance of Black School Educators, an organization that opposed DeVos’s appointment, was noted as “introduction to areas of concern.”
  • … and made time for prominent conservative thinkers. Those include Jim DeMint, then of the Heritage Foundation, and Professor Robert P. George of Princeton, who the New York Times Magazine once called “The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker.”
  • She met with conservative pollster Frank Luntz, who is noted as having a “60 slide deck of the words to use and the words to lose” on education issues. He pushes for Republicans to call private-school vouchers “opportunity scholarships.”
  • Her trip to the Bay Area in July included breakfast with Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal founder who helped take down Gawker and has drawn attention for his support for President Trump, at the “Thiel residence.” (On education, Thiel has been a longtime critic of traditional colleges.) DeVos also visited the Minerva Project, a for-profit attempt to restructure college learning, and what appears to be Horizons School of Technology, which describes itself online as a “12-16 week immersive program” for undergraduates.
  • She’s staying connected to her home state. The topic noted for a call to former Michigan Governor John Engler: “Catching up.” She recently tapped Engler to chair the board that helps oversee the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
  • JD Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” also got a call. Politico explored the education angle of his book here.

Tell us what else you find: see a searchable version of the document here.

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