Betsy DeVos just unveiled a $1.4 billion education budget plan that would decommission over 20 education programs to make way for giving middle- and upper-class families more flexibility for private school options on the state and local level. Federal work-study programs, after-school initiatives for low-income students, and Special Olympics funds will all get major cuts. During a House Appropriations subcommittee meeting on her budget, DeVos also told Congress that the federal government would defer to states for handling discrimination cases.
The issue arose after Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) asked DeVos how the federal government would respond to states using federal funds for private schools that deny LGBTQ and black students. DeVos responded by throwing responsibility off the federal government’s shoulders and onto the states.
“For states that have programs that allow for parents to make choices, they set up the rules around that,” DeVos said, the New York Times reports.
DeVos also claimed that the Department’s Office for Civil Rights would investigate discrimination claims, but she chose not to provide a specific example of how the department would protect students. Rep. Clark was not pleased.
“I’m shocked that you were unable to find one example of discrimination against students that you would be willing to stand up to,” she said, the Times reports.
Through DeVos’ budget initiative, her plan would ultimately funnel federal money into state programs that may allow private schools to discriminate based on race, gender, or religion. If the Department of Education fails to enforce anti-discrimination guidelines, that means private schools will be able to use federal money however they choose.
“This isn’t about parents making choices,” Clark told DeVos. “This is about the use of federal dollars.”
But according to the Los Angeles Times, a school voucher option is just one of many choices on the table that states can implement. And the department does plan to intervene when federal laws are violated.
“When States design programs, and when schools implement them, it is incumbent on them to adhere to Federal law,” DeVos’ press secretary, Liz Hill, clarified with the Los Angeles Times in an email. “The Department of Education can and will intervene when Federal law is broken.”