U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is poised to visit the Manhattan High School for Girls on Tuesday, according to a Jewish publication that seemed to land the scoop on Friday.
But if DeVos does plan to visit the private Jewish school, she is keeping quiet about her plans. A DeVos spokeswoman, Evelyn Stauffer, would not confirm the visit, and the secretary’s schedule does not list any public events on Tuesday.
A woman who answered the phone at the Manhattan High School for Girls would also not confirm that a visit was in the works. “I’m going to have the proper authorities contact you,” she said, before hanging up. Multiple school officials did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment.
The decision to visit a private Jewish school would almost certainly invite scrutiny. While DeVos has toured religious schools in other states to make the case for school choice policies, local ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools have been criticized for leaving students without basic reading, math, or science skills.
Those critiques have focused most sharply on the education offered to boys who attend religious yeshivas — separate from the Manhattan High School for Girls. But even the possibility of a DeVos visit has attracted attention from critics of the city’s yeshivas, which enroll about 57,000 students and were recently at the center of a controversy over oversight of their curriculum that held up the state’s budget.
“The fastest growing Jewish denomination, the Hasidic community, provides little to no secular education to their boys (while most Hasidic girls do get a decent education),” Naftuli Moster, an advocate who has pushed for more rigorous education at yeshivas, wrote in an email. “We urge Ms. DeVos to visit real Hasidic boys’ schools as well.”
DeVos’ potential visit might also be notable for the schools not on her schedule. She has not made plans to visit any district schools in the nation’s largest school system, according to city education department spokeswoman Toya Holness.
And it’s unclear whether she reached out to any of the city’s high-performing charter networks, which would be an obvious way to promote school choice. Spokespeople for three large networks — Achievement First, KIPP, and Uncommon Schools — all said they were not aware of DeVos reaching out to set up a school visit in New York City.
A spokeswoman for Success Academy, the city’s largest charter network (and which has been slower to distance itself from the Trump administration) would not say if they had been contacted or if a visit was planned.
Press were invited to DeVos’s school visits in New Hampshire on Monday. But if DeVos does wind up visiting schools in New York City without alerting the press or listing the event on her public schedule, it won’t be the first time.