U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will visit Nebraska this week and her trip could include a stop at Lincoln Public Schools’ science focus program.

A U.S. Department of Education release announced DeVos will be in Nebraska Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana as part of her first back-to-school tour.

The release indicates her "Rethink School" tour will highlight the "innovative and groundbreaking work happening in schools across America."

Lincoln Board of Education President Lanny Boswell said Friday that LPS was contacted last week by the federal agency about a possible visit, although nothing had been set in stone.

“It still may or may not happen,” he said. “We won’t know for certain until the last minute.

"We will have classes and if it happens it will be a great opportunity for our students to visit with the secretary and for the secretary to see our program, and if it doesn’t happen we will go on with business as usual,” he added.

LPS officials confirmed Friday they'd been contacted by DeVos' office about a possible visit to the zoo school and were working out details with her office.

The zoo school focus program operates out of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, which sent out a notification Friday that it would be closed Thursday for a Lincoln Public Schools event. The notification did not elaborate.

DeVos, who was narrowly approved as President Trump’s education secretary, is a former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan. She's a longtime supporter of school choice and a force behind the spread of charter schools in her home state.

Teachers unions vigorously opposed her nomination and her speeches as education secretary have drawn protests in other states. The prospect of her visiting schools in Omaha in August was greeted with some concern by the Omaha Education Association.

Lincoln Education Association President Rita Bennett said Friday the news about a possible DeVos visit had been trickling out slowly and she's not yet gotten any feedback from teachers.

"A lot of our concerns about Betsy DeVos is her limited to no experience with the public school realm," she said. "So I tend to think the best way to learn is to visit a great public school."

Bennett said she's proud to show off LPS' zoo school, one of the best examples of how to personalize and individualize education for students without charter schools.

"Lincoln has done a fantastic job without needing those kinds of structures that her record shows she tends to be in favor of," Bennett said.

While charter schools are not authorized in Nebraska, school choice advocates have gained ground in pushing for them and Gov. Pete Ricketts supports school choice.

Zoo school was the first focus program created for LPS high school students and remains one of the most successful. The district also offers an arts and humanities focus program and folded two other focus programs into the new Career Academy, which offers dual credit courses in conjunction with Southeast Community College.

According to an Education Week tracker, DeVos has visited 19 schools, including 10 traditional public schools, four charter schools and five private schools this year.


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