During a House Appropriations Committee hearing this Wednesday, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) asked Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos if she would require charter schools that receive state funding not to discriminate against particular demographics of students.
Using the example of Bloomington, Indiana’s Lighthouse Christian Academy which gets more than $665,000 in state funding through a school voucher program, Clark pointed out that the school’s policy claims it reserves the right to deny admittance to any student in a family where there is “homosexual or bisexual activity” or family members who practice “alternate gender identity.”
“The states set up the rules,” DeVos said while smiling. “I believe states continue to have flexibility in putting together programs.”
“You are the backstop for students and the right to access a quality education,” Clark pressed. “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’?” Clark even used a hypothetical about schools that refuse to accept African-American students and whether or not they would be eligible for federal funding under DeVos’s voucher systems.
DeVos still refused to answer the question directly.
“I think the Office of Civil Rights and our Title IX protections are broadly applicable across the board,” DeVos said. “But when it comes to parents making choices on behalf of their students…”
“This isn’t about parents making choices,” Clark interrupted. “This is about use of federal dollars.”
“I go back to the bottom line, is we believe that 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,” she said. “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 students.”
From Slate‘s Christian Cauterucci:
DeVos calls what she’s endorsing “state flexibility.” States, she’s saying, should have the flexibility to exclude marginalized demographics from federally funded public schools if they deem it appropriate for their students. No cookie-cutter integrated school solutions for DeVos, who once praised education under Jim Crow as a pioneering example of school choice! The Secretary of Education wants students to have all of the options, including federally funded options that allow them to avoid learning alongside queer students, students of color, students of faith, or students with disabilities, if their parents prefer it that way.
Watch the video below:
Featured image via screen grab