You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Betsy DeVos is headlining Harvard’s Koch-backed conference on school choice—with no critics of school choice.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

It’s already been a shameful month for the Ivy League university, which rescinded a fellowship for whistleblower and transgender activist Chelsea Manning while simultaneously welcoming a pair of disgraced former White House aides, Corey Lewandowski and Sean Spicer. This week, Harvard will privilege Trumpism over progressivism again, hosting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for a conference on “The Future of School Choice” that features a lopsided lineup.

The conference, which runs Thursday through Friday, is sponsored by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, which receives funding from the Charles Koch Foundation. But that connection is less obvious on the conference’s website than it was last week, when Chalkbeat education reporter Matt Barnum tweeted out this screenshot:

By Monday, the words “with support from the Charles Koch foundation” had been scrubbed from the website. The program’s associate director, Antonio Wendland, acknowledged the change, telling me the previous language didn’t convey the breadth of the program’s sponsorship, which includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We constantly edit our site all the time, and we thought we would just streamline it,” Wendland said. He rejected the suggestion that Harvard was trying to hide Koch’s involvement, saying, “All that stuff is an open book.” (Wendland told me he couldn’t comment on the conference’s lack of school choice critics, and Paul Peterson, the program’s director, couldn’t be reached immediately by phone.)

Opponents of DeVos’s agenda conceivably can attend the conference, though AlterNet education editor Jennifer Berkshire notes a cruel irony: As is so often the case with school choice, admission to the event requires winning a lottery.