LOUISVILLE, Ky. - High school journalists who were barred last week from a roundtable event with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in Kentucky have made national news after calling out the event's lack of openness.
"We are student journalists who wanted to cover an event in our community featuring the Secretary of Education, but ironically, we couldn’t get in without an invitation," the students said in an editorial in their newspaper at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, a public school in Lexington.
In the students' piece, "No Seat at the Roundtable," the newspaper's two editor-in-chiefs said they were waved away the morning of April 17 when an event bouncer learned they hadn't RSVP'd to the event.
The roundtable, hosted by the Bluegrass Community & Technical College in Lexington, focused on a a possible federal tax credit scholarship.
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DeVos' department is proposing "Education Freedom Scholarships," which would offer up to $5 billion in annual federal tax breaks to those choosing to donate to state-based scholarship programs.
Beyond their own problems attempting to enter the event, the students questioned the 11 a.m. Wednesday timing of the event, saying it's an inconvenient time for teachers and students to attend.
The editorial questioned why only one student, who attends a private school in Louisville, had a seat at the table.
"... As students, we are the ones who are going to be affected by the proposed changes discussed at the roundtable, yet we were not allowed inside," the students, Olivia Doyle and Abigail Wheatley, wrote.
And as the Courier Journal reported last week, while many state education officials and school-choice supporters attended, no public school employees were included in the roundtable.
"The bottom line is that we do not think that it is fair to have a closed roundtable about education when it affects thousands of Kentucky teachers, students, and parents," the students wrote.
A media advisory on the education department's website included press contacts and noted reporters needed to have RSVP'd for the event by 8 a.m. on the day of the events.
The students say they learned of DeVos' visit the day before and started making plans to attend. But when they arrived at the public school campus for the event they knew was open to reporters, the students said, a man wearing a college badge told them they needed an invitation to attend.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that U.S. Department of Education Press Secretary Liz Hill said no one on DeVos' staff knew that student journalists were trying to get into the event.
"We welcome student journalists and would have been happy for them to be in attendance," she said. "We are looking into what, if any, miscommunication might have happened between other staff on site for the event.”
Follow Matthew Glowicki on Twitter: @MattGlo
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: High school journalists were blocked from Betsy DeVos event. So, they wrote about it