Critics of Education Secretary Devos hope to have up to 6,000 protesters turn out for her speech Friday night

SEATTLE – The head of the U.S. Department of Education makes her first to Western Washington Friday night. Education Secretary Betsy Devos will speak at the Washington Policy Center’s annual fundraising dinner in Bellevue.

Leaders of the nonprofit think tank say they’re excited to bring Devos and her ideas about education reform to Washington state.

Meanwhile, critics are trying to gather up to 6,000 people to protest the woman they say isn’t qualified to hold the prestigious position.

More than 1 million kids attend schools in Washington state and the adults are arguing over what’s best for them; even at the highest levels in Washington, D.C., with Devos.

An exchange at her confirmation hearing made many ask the question, how could someone with no experience in public education or state agencies, who never went to public schools or sent her children to public schools, know what’s best for the nation’s public schools?

“I found myself screaming at the TV set when she couldn’t answer questions that I knew,” said Sharonne Navas, co-founder and executive director at the Equity in Education Coalition.

And dissenters have followed her everywhere since getting the job, including booing her at a college graduation and blocking her entrance into a school in D.C. But leaders at the Washington Policy Center say they’ll open their doors and hand her a microphone at their annual dinner Friday night.

Many want to hear “her exciting ideas about education reform and creating school choice. Our state just got charter schools,” said Washington Policy Center Research Director Paul Guppy.

Guppy says Washington parents want charter schools and he believes public dollars should support school choice, but that’s an ongoing court debate in our state.

“Charter schools are popular with low-income, inner-city parents in particular, where they feel they’re trapped in a failing public school,” said Guppy.

The Equity in Education Coalition, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson are among those planning to protest Devos’ speech. Leaders there say they’re not against charter schools, but are more concerned with properly funding the state’s public school system.

“If we were to fully fund education and allow for school districts to have the flexibility to offer the programs that students need to be fully successful in their academics, every school district, every school building, would be a choice,” said Navas.

Navas said she hopes 5,000 to 6,000 people will take to the streets to protest Devos, along with Washington’s failed promise to properly fund public education and to encourage a fix of the tax code.

“A parent could move from Bellevue to Battleground and know that, regardless of what their zip code is, they’re going to get an excellent education for their child,” said Navas.

But Guppy says it’s time for a new approach and one that he’s excited to hear from Devos.

“Where is the accountability in the school district, which is not providing the education that was promised? And this has been going on for decades,” said Guppy.

Devos will speak Friday night at the Hyatt in Bellevue.