DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – Democrats vying for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination courted Iowa’s teachers on Saturday by promising to oust U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and appoint someone who has taught in public schools.
The pledges to remove DeVos, who has used her post in the Trump administration to advocate for school choice, vouchers and charter schools, drew the most enthusiastic applause at the Iowa State Education Association’s (ISEA) legislative contest.
The ISEA, a member of the National Education Association, represents 34,000 teachers in Iowa, which on Feb. 3 will host the first state nominating contest to pick a Democratic candidate to take on President Donald Trump in November.
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, each addressed the conference for about 10 minutes on Saturday morning.
Klobuchar, from the neighboring state of Minnesota, reminded the crowd that her mother was a longtime public school teacher and that she is a product of public schools.
“In my first 100 days I have 137 things that I found out you can do without Congress – a president can do herself – that are legal, but I will tell you this, in the first 100 seconds I will fire Betsy DeVos,” Klobuchar said to cheers.
Klobuchar trails Biden, Warren and Buttigieg, along with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, in Iowa opinion polls as the candidates enter the final stretch ahead of the state’s caucuses. She, like other senators, will largely be tethered to Washington in the coming days for Trump’s impeachment trial.
The ISEA did not endorse in the 2016 presidential primaries. Klobuchar, Warren, Biden and Buttigieg have all received endorsements from individual ISEA members and past leaders. The National Education Association, which represents 3 million educators, backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 over Sanders but has yet to endorse in the 2020 race.
Warren highlighted her plan for a wealth tax that would finance an additional $800 billion federal investment in public education.
“My secretary of education will be someone who has taught in public school, Betsy DeVos need not apply,” Warren said.
DeVos is a former chair of Michigan’s Republican Party, political fundraiser and she chaired the board of the Alliance for School Choice, the largest U.S. organization promoting increased school choice via vouchers, corporate tax credits and other measures. She is not a teacher.
Biden likewise told the crowd that “four years of Betsy DeVos is enough.”
Reporting By Amanda Becker in Des Moines, Iowa; Editing by Daniel Wallis