Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos refused to answer whether she would withhold funds from private schools that discriminated against LGBT or African-American students, instead sticking to her talking points about “school choice.”
DeVos, who was supposed to be answering questions before a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee, dodged and evaded the issue until the allotted time expired.
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 24, 2017
Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-MA) asked DeVos about the Lighthouse Christian Academy, which currently gets more than $665,000 in state vouchers while discriminating against the LGBTQ community. (The school’s handbook says that homosexual and “alternate gender” activity in the students’ home is forbidden.)
“Will you stand up [and say] that this school [should] be open to all students?” Clark asked.
Devos thanked Clark for the question, which she interpreted as “broadly” about “school choice.”
Clark chimed in to say the question was quite specific and that she only had one minute remaining. (That, in hindsight, may have been a mistake.)
“Is there a line for you on state flexibility? You are the backstop for students in their right to access a quality education. Would you, in this case, say ‘We are going to overrule and you cannot discriminate,’ whether it be on sexual orientation, race, special needs in our voucher programs? Will that be a guarantee from you for our students?“
“For states who have programs that allow for parents to make choices, they set up the rules around that,” DeVos said.
Asked if the schools could also discriminate against African-American students while receiving federal funding, DeVos again deferred to her catch-all “school choice” phrasing, adding that the “Office [for] Civil Rights and our Title IX protections are broadly applicable” and that she believes “states continue to have flexibility.”
“The bottom line is we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children, schooling, and education decisions, and too many children today are trapped in schools that don’t work for them. We have to do something different… States and local communities are best equipped to make these decisions.”
Clark’s final response in the exchange made it feel like she was reading my mind:
“I am shocked that you cannot come up with one example of discrimination that you would stand up for students.”
This shouldn’t be too shocking coming from DeVos, who, at every turn, has championed private school vouchers, state choice, and religion in schools that are funded with government dollars. If a violation of church/state separation or blatant discrimination come into play, DeVos is happy to pretend everything is just fine.
What is shocking, however, is that we continue to let her get away with it. If we’re not talking about this and refusing to stand up for the students DeVos is happy to throw under the bus, Republicans are going to give her the green light to do whatever she wants.
The government has no business funding schools that care more about advancing religious views than working to educate everyone who walks through their doors.