In a tense exchange with Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark on Wednesday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos refused to identify a single example of discriminatory policies that would make a private school ineligible for federal funding. The conversation, captured by CSPAN and embedded below, is astounding in how clearly it exposes the scope of “faith-based” discriminatory actions that DeVos is willing to permit.
Rep. Clark, a Democrat who has “made combatting discrimination in public schools one of her top priorities in Congress,” according to Boston.com, grilled the education secretary about a Christian school in Indiana that has received more $665,000 in state voucher funds, while clearly stating that it will deny admission to any child whose family includes LGBT people.
As a key architect and backer of Indiana’s uniquely sweeping “school choice” voucher program, DeVos may have already been familiar with Bloomington’s Lighthouse Christian Academy. Nevertheless, Clark offered a brief summary to refresh the secretary’s memory. (And, it seems likely, to ensure the Congressional record reflects just how unwilling the Secretary of Education is to require that the schools her department may fund treat all students equally.)
The school, Clark explained, is “clear in their handbook and their guidance that 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, if Indiana applies for this federal funding, will you stand up [and demand] that this school be open to all students?” Clark asked.
DeVos side-stepped the question with the skill of a seasoned line dancer. She refused to give a clear yes or no answer, suggesting the question Clark posed was “hypothetical,” even though the school whose policy Clark quoted does in fact exist and receives funding from Indiana’s coffers. The secretary was similarly evasive when Clark asked whether a school that outright barred African-American students from attending, but was approved by its state voucher system to do so, would be ineligible for federal dollars.
“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’re going to use our federal dollars,” Clark summarized after DeVos again refused to answer the congresswoman’s questions.
After DeVos offered irrelevant platitudes about how parents and communities are “best equipped” to make decisions about school choice (wholly neglecting any discussion of federal funds), Clark concluded her allotted time with a firey condemnation:
“I am shocked that you cannot come up with one example of discrimination that you would stand up for students,” Clark said.
Watch the incredible, revealing exchange below.