Oklahoma teacher debates education secretary over 'school choice - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Oklahoma teacher debates education secretary over 'school choice'

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Durant teacher Jon Hazell confronted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (KTEN) Durant teacher Jon Hazell confronted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (KTEN)

Oklahoma's Teacher of the Year Jon Hazell is making national news after a heated conversation he had with U.S Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The Durant high school science teacher got a chance to speak with DeVos in Washington at the National Teacher of the Year conference in Washington on Monday. 

But what started as a simple discussion quickly turned into a heated argument between Hazell and DeVos, raising questions about the secretary's stance on public education. 

"It was uncomfortable; it was passionate; but it was not disrespectful," Hazell said. "She met with the group and she wanted a roundtable discussion, and she asked the question... she asked, "Tell me some of the obstacles that you've faced as teachers, some of the things that are going on."

The Oklahoman's response appeared to surprise the education secretary.

"So I asked the question: 'In Oklahoma we have an issue, and I don't know how all the other states are handling this, but a lot of charter schools are popping up. And every time a student goes to a charter school, they take $4,500 of public school money with them.'"

That statement sparked a dispute between the two, with DeVos saying the answer is to consider all schools public -- including charter schools.

"Which really bothered me," Hazell said. "That means they're just changing the terms to try and justify taking the money out of public education and giving it to private charter schools."

The debate made national headlines, coming just a month after the Oklahoma teacher walkout which inspired educators to continue to raise their voices to political leaders.

"My responsibility -- and people have to understand this -- is to hold our leaders accountable," Hazell said. "That's my right, that's my job."

The celebrated Durant educator hopes that his words will inspire change.

"It's going to take more," Hazell said. "We have barley cracked the door."

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