Cory Turner

Updated at 10:04 a.m. ET with Louisiana study

It is the education debate of the Trump era. With the president and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos using policy and the bully pulpit to champion private school vouchers, supporters and critics have tangled over the question:

Do low-income, public school students perform better when they're given a voucher to attend a private school?

Over and over again, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos deflected a barrage of pointed questions with one answer:

"Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law."

What a week it's been for education news. Let's begin NPR Ed's weekly roundup as the week began, on Monday ...

DeVos talks choice in Indianapolis

It was expected to be an important speech, perhaps the unveiling of President Trump's long-awaited, $20 billion plan to expand school choice nationally. But that didn't happen.

Instead, when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took the stage in Indianapolis at the American Federation For Children's National Policy Summit, she talked philosophy.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Wendy Robinson wants to make one thing very clear.

As the long-serving superintendent of Fort Wayne public schools, Indiana's largest district, she is not afraid of competition from private schools.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is down.

If those words don't send a shiver up your spine, it means you're not a high school senior or college student rushing to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The FAFSA is the form — famously complicated and difficult to finish — that stands between many low-income students and the federal, state and institutional aid they need to pay for college.

Once again, it was another big week for national education news. Here's our quick take on the top stories.

Senate scraps federal regulations

On Thursday, the Senate voted to roll back Obama-era rules that clarified and elaborated on a wide range of accountability requirements in the federal education law known as The Every Student Succeeds Act.

Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the radical Muslim cleric with ties to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, died early morning Saturday at a federal prison complex in Butner, N.C.

According to Kenneth McKoy, the facility's acting executive assistant, Abdel-Rahman, 78, died after a long struggle with coronary artery disease and diabetes.

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LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:

Republicans in Congress have been getting an earful all week, especially those who ventured back to their districts. Protesters have been overwhelming town hall meetings of several prominent House Republicans, as NPR's Cory Turner reports.

The latest, remarkable misstep of a Cabinet nominee who has misstepped plenty came in answer to a simple question:

"Why do you think their performance is so poor?" asked Senator Patty Murray, D-Wa., in a written question to Betsy DeVos, President Trump's nominee to lead the Education Department.

Niya Kenny pulled out her cell phone and began recording.

It happened in 2015, after a classmate had refused to hand over her own cell phone during class and was being pulled from her chair by a police officer based at their school, Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C. When Kenny loudly protested and, like her classmate, refused to hand over her phone, she too was arrested.

The charge: disturbing a school.

The U.S. Department of Education has withdrawn a proposal that could have fundamentally changed the flow of federal dollars to schools that serve low-income students.

After Betsy DeVos' Senate confirmation hearing yesterday — all three hours and change — we know a little more about Donald Trump's pick to be the next education secretary.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, DeVos faced questions on a range of issues, from private school vouchers and charter school oversight to guns in schools.

The education philosophy of Betsy DeVos boils down to one word: choice. The billionaire has used her money to support the expansion of public charter schools and private school vouchers.

For more than three hours on Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to run the Education Department handled tough questions on school choice, charters and the future of the nation's schools from the Senate committee that handles education.

In her opening remarks, DeVos made clear she doesn't think traditional public schools are a good fit for every child.

He didn't have long. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 after President Obama's long-serving secretary, Arne Duncan, stepped down at the end of 2015. No matter the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, King knew that Obama would be out in a year and replaced by a president who, regardless of party, would almost certainly replace him.

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