by Félix Pérez
It’s been more than two weeks since Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ widely panned appearance before a U.S. House committee in which she sought to defend President Trump’s education budget. And if her testimony before a U.S. Senate committee this week is any indication, DeVos hasn’t learned from her mistakes.
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DeVos, a longtime funder and advocate for taking scarce funding from public schools to give to private schools in the form of vouchers or tax credits, again refused to say if federally funded voucher and charter schools would be banned from discriminating against students based on their sexual orientation or religion. “On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees,” said DeVos in one of her multiple variations of the same evasive answer.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon, grew exasperated at DeVos’ noncommittal response:
I think it’s 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 ban discrimination based on religion.
DeVos’ refusal to say that private schools that discriminate would be barred from receiving federal funds echoes her responses at the House hearing last month, when she declined to offer a direct response. US Rep. Katherine Clark of Connecticut, frustrated, pressed DeVos. “So if I understand your testimony — I want to make sure I get this right. There is 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 are going to use our federal dollars?”