Betsy DeVos Confirms That She Will Literally Never Stand up Against Discrimination
Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) recently pushed Betsy Devos on her budget proposal, which will cut $11 billion from the Department of Education’s overall budget while funneling $1.4 billion into school voucher programs. The budget has already come under fire for its vicious dismantling of funding for arts education, anti-bullying programs, and STEM, civics, and foreign language education. However, Clark was particularly concerned about how the vouchers program will be implemented.
Clark asked DeVos about a specific school: Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington, Indiana. Under Indiana’s voucher program, the academy receives over $665,000 from the state. However, their handbook clearly permits discrimination against LGBTQIA individuals and their families. The handbook says that “if you are from a family where there is homosexual or bisexual activity, or practicing alternate gender identity, you may be denied admissions.” Given that the school has already been approved for Indiana’s state vouchers program, Clark rightly asked if DeVos would insist that the school open its doors to all students in order to receive federal funding.
“You are the backstop for students and their right to access a quality education,” said Clark. “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,” said Devos, “they set up the rules around that.”
“So that’s a no,” snapped Clark. “Do you see any circumstance where the federal Department of Education, under your leadership, would say that a school was not qualified?…Do you see any situation where you would step in?”
“Well, again, I think the Office of Civil Rights and our Title IX protections are broadly applicable across the board,” said DeVos, “but when it comes to parents making choices on behalf…”
“This isn’t about parents making choices. This is about use of federal dollars. Is there any situation…Would you say to Indiana: ‘that school cannot discriminate against LGBT students if you want to receive federal dollars’? Or would you say the state has the flexibility in this situation?”
“I believe states continue to have flexibility.”
“So if I understand your testimony – I want to make sure I get this right – there’s no situation of discrimination or exclusion, that if a state approved it for its voucher program, that you would step in and say, ‘That’s not how we’re going to use our federal dollars’?”
“I think a hypothetical in this case…”
“It’s not a hypothetical. This is a real school applying.”
“I go back to the…the bottom line is we believe that parents are the best-equipped to make choices for their children’s schooling and education decisions,” said Devos, “and too many children today are trapped in schools that don’t work for them. We have to do something different. We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach. And that is the focus. And states and local communities are best-equipped to make these decisions.”
Clark then summed the exchange up perfectly: “I am shocked that you cannot come up with one example of discrimination that you would stand up for students.”
You can watch Devos’ full testimony here.
It’s been clear from the day of her nomination that DeVos is deeply unqualified to be Secretary of Education, and we’ve seen from her recent policy decisions that she doesn’t care about the function of the Civil Rights Office or the way student loan protections should work. However, in this testimony, she doesn’t even try to pretend that she would stand up for the students her office is meant to serve. She barely even pays lip service to the rights of America’s children. Couldn’t she have lied just a little?
This is where the Trump administration has brought me. All I want from my government officials at this point is the dignity of being convincingly lied to – and they won’t even give me that.
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