Before Betsy DeVos took the stage at the American Legislative Exchange Council, protesters took to the Capitol steps Wednesday to voice their concerns over her qualifications and her stance on school choice.
"I think it's the first time in recent history I've been to an event where the protesters aren't necessarily here just for me," DeVos said.
The U.S. Secretary of Education went on to talk about the importance of giving more parents a voice to select the right school for their kids.
"On these issues and more, President Trump is determined to place the power back in the hands of the people," DeVos said.
She told legislators from around the country that she wants to reduce the federal government's role in schools.
"The time of inefficient, top down, one-size-fits-all mandates is over," DeVos said.
While protesters believe she wants to privatize public schools, DeVos says she wants to give more flexibility to teachers.
"Teachers are on the front lines and they know how best to meet the needs of their students," DeVos said.
After her speech, she engaged in a short question and answer session with Debbie Lesko, a state senator from Arizona. During this session, DeVos emphasized a focus on state's rights in the push for more school choice.
"I do firmly believe that every state should afford parents and empower parents to make the right choice for their child's education," DeVos said.
Though protesters believe she just wants to protect rich families, DeVos said she has been working for decades on establishing a school voucher system to help lower income kids.
"My focus over these 30 years has really been to help those who are least empowered, those who can't move, those who can't afford to pay tuition," DeVos said.
The American Legislative Exchange Council is in its 44th year. It bills itself as a nonpartisan, voluntary organization of state legislators but usually only draws Republican lawmakers to their events.