About 1,500 people will be inside the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue to hear U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speak at the Washington Policy Center’s annual gala. A large group of protesters is expected outside, too.
Thousands of people will await U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos when she arrives Friday evening in Bellevue.
About 1,500 people will be inside the Hyatt Regency to hear DeVos speak at the Washington Policy Center’s annual gala, while a large group is also expected to protest — or counterprotest that protest — outside the hotel.
Registration for the sold-out gala starts at 4 p.m., and DeVos is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m.
Organizers for the anti-DeVos rally say protesters will gather at 5 p.m. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Bellevue Mayor John Stokes and Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, along with public school teachers, are scheduled to speak at the protest.
The protesters also will include a group of Washington charter-school parents, who object to some of DeVos’ policies, even though DeVos is a strong supporter of charter schools. In a prepared statement about DeVos’ upcoming visit, Washington’s Charter Schools Association said that while it supports charter schools (public schools run by private groups), it does not support a school voucher system, as DeVos does. Washington doesn’t have a voucher system, which allows students to attend private or parochial schools with taxpayer money.
The Washington State Republican Party announced Thursday that it will stage a counterprotest. Counterprotesters will meet at the Bellevue Library and march to the Hyatt Regency. The Republicans say they want to support “our urban minority students who excel when given quality educations in charter schools.”
Bellevue Way Northeast, from Northeast Eighth Street to Northeast 10th Street, will be closed in both directions from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. because of the protests, the city of Bellevue announced earlier this week. The Bellevue Police Department said extra officers will be on duty during the event.
DeVos usually visits schools when she has a speaking engagement outside of Washington, D.C., but it’s unclear if she’ll visit any schools in the Seattle area. Her schedule on the U.S. Department of Education website hasn’t been updated since last week, and the Education Department press office did not respond to messages about her whereabouts.