Lincoln School Superintendent Steve Joel said Wednesday he considers it an honor that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will visit Lincoln’s Science Focused “Zoo School” Thursday. The Secretary is on a tour of midwestern school districts offering their students unique educational programs.
Joel made it clear, however, that he plans to promote and defend the system of education offered, both in Lincoln and throughout the State of Nebraska. DeVos is known to support Charter Schools, a model that Joel does not favor. He said the goal of DeVos’ trip is to study alternative educational models, and predicted she will like what she finds in Lincoln.
“One of the things we take great pride of in Nebraska, and I think it’s worked, is that one size doesn’t fit all, that we don’t approach education as ‘every student gets exactly the same thing at the same time in the same way'”.
Joel said he is ready to tell the Education Secretary that Nebraska is providing choice to students and parents.
“We feel like, if part of the discussion nationally is, that we’re not doing enough to support students who need that support, it’s that hope that, when Mrs. DeVos leaves, she’ll see evidence that we are.”
Joel said the Charter Schools that are allowed in all but six states, including Nebraska, may be needed in those locations. He made it clear, however, that he believes they would dilute resources that should be available to the Public Schools.
“We have an educational system in this state that is the envy of many states, because it works” he said. “Outcomes are positive. Graduation rates are high. College-going rates are high.”
Joel said he will ask DeVos what else Lincoln can do, from her vantage point, to provide the choices and the educational experience that students need.
“We feel we have a very good system” he said, but added “we need to make sure we’re always looking for ways to do things better.”