Betsy DeVos said yesterday that the Department of Education would not give federal funds to private schools that defy federal anti-discrimination laws. She suggested it is not her job to prevent discrimination against in cases where federal antidiscrimination laws are unclear, such as with LGBTQ students.
DeVos participated in a contentious hearing in front of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education on Tuesday morning. Democrats and Republicans peppered the secretary with questions about the administration’s proposed budget, which would cut billions of dollars in funding for public education while increasing money to support school choice programs and fund private and religious schools.
While being queried by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), DeVos wouldn’t say whether private schools receiving federal funds would be punished for religious discrimination or discrimination against LGBTQ students. She said that these schools would be required to follow federal antidiscrimination laws, but said her department would not be issuing anything beyond that. DeVos told Merkley.
“On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees. That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle.”
Merkley replied, then went on to ask about religious discrimination.
“I think you just said where it’s unsettled, such discrimination will continue to be allowed under your program. If that’s incorrect, please correct it for the record.”
DeVos gave another unspecific answer,
“Schools that receive federal funds will follow federal law, period.”
Merkley said DeVos had dodged the question,
“I think that’s very important for the public to know, that today, the secretary of education, before this committee, refused to affirm that she would put forward a program that would ban discrimination based on LGBTQ status of students or would ban discrimination based on religion.”
DeVos came back with the general,
“Discrimination in any form is wrong. I don’t support discrimination in any form.”
DeVos has faced opposition from groups advocating for LGBTQ students and ones for civil rights, as well. Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said on Monday,
“Secretary DeVos’ withdrawal of lifesaving guidance supporting transgender students has already been repudiated by the courts. Her recent statements that she would let private schools openly discriminate with federal dollars are unacceptable.”
What she said.
(Photo, YouTube; via Huffington Post)