Congressional Democrats pushed Betsy DeVos to say that she opposed discrimination in a federal schools program. She refused to do so.
The Secretary of Education appeared at a hearing before the Appropriations Committee to discuss her proposed budget for next year, which includes $1 billion for a school choice program, which would put federal money in the pockets of private schools.
Democrats wanted her to assure them that the money wouldn’t fund schools that discriminate against LGBT students. She refused to make that promise.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) questioned her about a statement she made last month that the Department of Education would no longer investigate discrimination claims from transgender students. He brought up how several federal courts have interpreted Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination in schools to include transgender students.
“We have continued to defend the rights of students as defined under Title IX,” DeVos said, “until either the Supreme Court or Congress clarifies the law with regard to transgender access to bathrooms, athletic locker rooms and athletic teams.”
“This department is not going to make law,” she continued, a reference to guidance from the Obama Administration that said that schools should work to prevent discrimination against transgender students because of their Title IX obligations. Last year, DeVos rescinded that guidance.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) also brought up discrimination.
“I could not find a single state the protects LGBT students within the state’s voucher anti-discrimination laws,” Clark said. “So state dollars flow to private schools, they are allowed to discriminate. I couldn’t find any case where that didn’t happen.”
She asked whether the Department of Education would assure that federal money wouldn’t go to schools that discriminate.
DeVos responded, “Where federal dollars flow, federal law must be adhered to.” Which means that she will not oppose discrimination against LGBT students since she interprets federal law as not including LGBT people.
“As Secretary DeVos fumbles through another congressional hearing, her record of walking-back LGBTQ protections and actively refusing to aid transgender students facing discrimination speaks for itself,” said GLAAD’s President Sarah Kate Ellis. “Our Secretary of Education should be fighting for all students, not actively making life more difficult for transgender students.”
DeVos has deep ties with the religious right. Last year, she held a conference on education and invited Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, two organizations that advocate for conversion therapy.