Thursday, May 25, 2017

Betsy DeVos Refuses to Rule Out Giving Funds to Schools That Discriminate - The New York Times

Betsy DeVos Refuses to Rule Out Giving Funds to Schools That Discriminate - The New York Times:

Betsy DeVos Refuses to Rule Out Giving Funds to Schools That Discriminate

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WASHINGTON — Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, on Wednesday fiercely defended budget plans to spend $1.4 billion on the Trump administration’s expanded school choice agenda, but refused to say whether her office would withhold funds from private schools that discriminate against students.
In her first testimony to Congress since a bruising confirmation hearing in January, Ms. DeVos appeared unflappable as she told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee that the budget sought to empower states and parents to make decisions about students’ educations.
“We cannot allow any parent to feel their child is trapped in a school that isn’t meeting his or her unique needs,” Ms. DeVos told lawmakers.
But Democrats derided the education spending blueprint for the 2018 fiscal year as tone deaf to low-income and working-class Americans. Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the panel, called it “cruel” and “inhumane.”
The budget plan would eliminate more than 20 education programs and redirect funding to expanding school choice initiatives. Those include a $250 million program to give students publicly funded scholarships to attend private schools.
But Ms. DeVos said states, not the Education Department, would decide whether to withhold federal money from private schools that are neither required to serve a diverse pool of students nor held publicly accountable for doing so.
Earlier this week, in a speech to school choice advocates, Ms. DeVos said that state participation in the voucher program and other federally funded school choice initiatives would be optional. But, she said, states that chose not to participate would be making a “terrible mistake.”
Representative Katherine M. Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts, asked how Ms. DeVos would respond to a state that gave federal funding to a school that denied admission to students from lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender families.
“For states that have programs that allow for parents to make choices, they set up the rules around that,” Ms. DeVos replied.
Though she said the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights would vigorously investigate any discrimination claims, Ms. DeVos declined to say how, specifically, she might protect students’ rights by intervening in state funding decisions.
“I’m shocked that you were unable to find one example of discrimination against students that you would be willing to stand up to,” Ms. Clark said.
Ms. DeVos maintained that parents should have the final say in what kind of schools their children attend. “Too many children today are trapped in schools that don’t work for them,” she said. “We have to do something Betsy DeVos Refuses to Rule Out Giving Funds to Schools That Discriminate - The New York Times:
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