World: DeVos visits New York schools, but not ones run by the City

DeVos visits New York schools, but not ones run by the City

NEW YORK — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos toured two New York City schools on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the city’s public schools, with their 1.1 million students, were not among them.

Instead, DeVos visited two Orthodox Jewish schools, and offered her strongest comments to date in support of public funding for religious schools in a meeting with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and other Catholic dignitaries.

“I know very well there are powerful interests that want to deprive families their God-given freedom” to choose private schools, she told the cardinal and the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, which supports Catholic charities, on Wednesday morning, according to her prepared remarks. “I know that those sycophants of ‘the system’ have kept legislators here from enacting a common-sense program that would open options to thousands of kids in need.”

DeVos has yet to visit a district-run school in New York, and her choice of institutions to visit drew a terse statement from the city’s Department of Education. “An investment in public education is an investment in the future of our city and country,” the department’s press secretary, Toya Holness, said. “Secretary DeVos is welcome to visit NYC public schools and see the phenomenal work we’re doing in the nation’s largest school district.”

Asked why DeVos had elected to only visit Orthodox schools on this visit, her spokeswoman pushed back.

“This will not be the secretary’s last visit to New York City,” said the spokeswoman, Liz Hill, promising that DeVos “is going to visit public schools and charter schools.” Charter schools are public, though they are not run by their local district.

In her remarks to the Smith Foundation, DeVos, who attended private Christian schools and sent her children to them, took aim at the so-called Blaine Amendments, provisions in 37 state constitutions that prohibit government aid to religiously affiliated educational institutions. She called the amendments the “last acceptable prejudice.”

The amendments have been used to fight private school vouchers, a cause DeVos has long championed.

“These amendments should be assigned to the ash heap of history,” DeVos said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times

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