Billionaire daughter and U.S. Secretary of State Betsy DeVos once said that she saw education reform as a way to “advance God’s Kingdom,” so it makes sense that she just told Congress that she’s okay with using taxpayer dollars to fund religious schools that discriminate against students with LGBTQ parents.
Yesterday, during a hearing with a House Appropriations subcommittee, Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark asked Devos if states should be able set their own rules on whether federally funded schools can discriminate against students for any reason.
Specifically, Clark brought up Lighthouse Christian Academy, an Indiana school that gets $665,000 in federal funding even though their literature rejects students with LGBTQ parents.
Clark said, “If you are from a family where there is homosexual or bisexual activity – their word not mine – or practicing alternate gender identity, you may be denied admissions. If this school which obviously is approved to discriminate against LGBT students in Indiana … applies for this federal funding, will you stand up that this school be open to all students?”
With one minute left in Clark’s questioning period, DeVos thanked Clark and tried to pivot to an earlier question, talking about “school choice” in general.
Clark interjected by saying, “You are the backstop for students and their right to access quality education. 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, they set up the rules around that,” DeVos replied.
“So that’s a no,” Clark said before continuing, “Do you see any circumstance where the federal Department of Education under your leadership would say that a school was not qualified? What if they said, ‘We are not accepting African-American students,’ but that was okay with the state? Does the state trump — do you see any situation where you would step in?”
DeVos answered, “Well again, I think the office of civil rights and Title IX protections are broadly applicable across the board, but when it comes to parents making choices on behalf of—”
Clark interrupted, “This isn’t about parents making choices. This is about use of federal dollars. Is there any situation where 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? Yes or no?”
DeVos answered, “I believe states continue to have flexibility –”
“If I understand your testimony, I want to make sure I get this right,” Clark continued, “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’?”
DeVos responded, “I think a hypothetical in this case –”
Clark replied, “It’s not a hypothetical. This is a real school that receives real dollars.”
With her time expired, DeVos answered, “The bottom line is that we believe parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children’s schooling and education decisions and too many children today are trapped in schools that don’t work for them. 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 and framework on behalf of their—”
At which point Clark said, “I am shocked that you cannot come up with one example of discrimination that you would stand up for students.”
You can watch the exchange below:
Towleroad.com notes that during DeVos’ confirmation hearing, Minnesota Senator Al Franken brought up DeVos’ support for anti-LGBT groups and conversion therapy:
“Mrs. DeVos, your family has a long history of supporting anti-LGBT causes including donating millions of dollars to groups that push conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, you and your family have given over $10 million to Focus On the Family, an organization that currently states on its website that, ‘homosexual strugglers can and do change their sexual behavior and identity.’”