Betsy DeVos, the uniquely unqualified billionairess who effectively bought herself the position of secretary of education, faced public questions for the first time in weeks on Wednesday. DeVos performed about as well as you would expect: that is to say, terribly.
The purpose of her public appearance was to defend the Trump administration’s budget, which proposes a series of brutal cuts to key programs benefiting American school children. She was not able to do so, repeatedly reverting to prepared talking points instead of answering questions directly.
Yet what was most memorable about her appearance was her response to a question by representative Katherine Clark (D-Mass). Rep. Clark asked DeVos is she was willing to provide federal funding to private schools who openly discriminate against LGBTQ students, and students who come from LGBTQ households. The question arose because a private school in Indiana has indicated that it may adopt such policies.
DeVos appeared to indicate that she would be willing to do so, deferring to states and parents’ rights. Shockingly, based on her responses she may even be willing to provide funding to racially discriminatory private schools.
The back and forth was summarized by the Washington Post as follows: Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) … asked DeVos whether she would tell [states they] could not discriminate…[if they] were to accept federal funding through a new school choice program. Clark further asked what DeVos would say if a voucher school were not accepting African American students and the state “said it was okay.”
DeVos: “Well again, the Office of Civil Rights and our Title IX protections are broadly applicable across the board, but when it comes to parents making choices on behalf of their students …”
Clark (interrupting): “This isn’t about parents making choices, this is about the use of federal dollars. Is there any situation? Would 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?”
DeVos: “I believe states should continue to have flexibility in putting together programs …”
Clark (interrupting): “So if I understand your testimony — I want to make sure I get this right. 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 are going to use our federal dollars?”
DeVos said she didn’t want to answer a hypothetical question.
Her answer was clear.