Watch Betsy DeVos Dodge Questions About How She’d Deal With Private Schools That Discriminate

“We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach.”

Carolyn Kaster/AP


In her first appearance before Congress since her contentious confirmation hearing in January, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to say whether she would step in to withhold federal funding from private schools that discriminate against LGBT students.

Speaking before the House appropriations subcommittee Wednesday to defend the administration’s proposal to cut $10.6 billion from the education department’s budget, DeVos pushed her familiar school choice message, arguing that states should be left to create their own voucher programs and that parents should be able to pick schools that can best serve their children.

But she quickly faced pushback from the subcommittee’s Democratic members. Rep. Katharine Clark (D-Mass.) asked DeVos if she could think of a “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’?” Clark pointed to Indiana’s Lighthouse Christian Academy, where students could be denied admission if they come from homes that violate biblical lifestyle standards—anything from “homosexual or bisexual activity” to “practicing alternate gender identity.”

“We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach,” DeVos responded. “States and local communities are best equipped to make decisions and framework on behalf of their students.”

Later, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said it was “appalling and sad” that the federal government would step away from its responsibility to protect students from discrimination. DeVos clarified that the education department would continue to investigate allegations of discrimination, despite the proposed $1.7 million cut to the department’s Office of Civil Rights. “I want to be very clear: I am not in any way suggesting that students should not be protected and should not be in the safe and secure and nurturing learning environment,” she said.

Watch the full exchange below:

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.