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Oklahoma’s ‘Teacher of the Year’ gets into heated debate with U.S. Education Secretary

DURANT, Okla. – An Oklahoma teacher is making headlines after he had a heated debate about public education with Betsy DeVos.

Jon Hazell, a science teacher at Durant High School, was named Oklahoma’s 2017 Teacher of the Year last September.

A graduate of Durant High School, Hazell has taught anatomy, biology and environmental science for more than 33 years in the Durant Independent School District.

“My purpose as a teacher is not so much to motivate my students as it is to create an environment where they motivate themselves,” Hazell wrote in his state Teacher of the Year application.

Recently, he was attending the ‘National Teacher of the Year’ conference in Washington, D.C. and had the chance to meet with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

What started as a simple discussion turned into a heated debate.

“It was uncomfortable, it was passionate, but it was not disrespectful,” Hazell told KTEN. “She met with the group and she wanted a round table 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.'”

Hazell immediately brought up the issue of public schools versus charter schools.

“‘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,'” he said.

His comment struck a chord with DeVos, who said all schools should be considered public schools, including charter schools.

“Which really bothered me. 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,” he said.