Betsy DeVos has concluded her two-day visit to New York City, during which she refused to visit a single public school, although she did attend two private, Orthodox Jewish religious schools. The Education Secretary also delivered remarks at a Catholic organization's breakfast meeting, and blasted bans on the use of taxpayer funds for private religious schools.
1.1 million students in New York City get their education in 1800 public schools – the largest school system in America. DeVos did not step foot in any of them.
The schools she did visit are reportedly part of a larger system that has been under investigation for three years, The New York Times reports, amid charges the focus on religious education is so severe students who graduate are unable to function anywhere outside their religious community. One of the two schools reportedly discourages graduates from attending college.
DeVos used her time in the Big Apple to further her private charter school advocacy, and made no attempt to hide her extremist views, which have repeatedly been characterized as unconstitutional.
"I know very well there are powerful interests that want to deprive families their God-given freedom," DeVos told Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, during a breakfast meeting hosted by the Alfred E. Smith Foundation.
"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," she said, referring to bans on the use of taxpayer funds for private, religious schools.
"Catholic education aims to serve the whole community -- especially 'the least of these.' It aims to promote individual student achievement while developing the whole person…body, mind and soul," she said. "Those are goals we share."
DeVos, using the language of civil rights movements, called the bans on taxpayers funding private religious schools "bigoted," and said those laws "should be assigned to the ash heap of history and this 'last acceptable prejudice' should be stamped out once and for all."
The Education Secretary's "actions have repeatedly demonstrated her disdain for public education,” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten told Shareblue in a statement.
“DeVos is about defunding and destabilizing public schools,” Weingarten said, “not strengthening and building the public schools she’s charged with overseeing and improving.”