Holding DeVos Accountable

This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Milford Daily News

Why was a congresswoman representing the Boston suburbs making national news about a private school in Indiana?

Rep. Katherine Clark took a stand for the civil rights of children and families in questioning Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during a hearing on Wednesday at the Capitol. In interrogating DeVos on the Trump school voucher program, Rep. Clark asked the secretary a simple question: is there any instance in which a discriminatory admissions policy should preclude a school from receiving federal funding?

Betsy DeVos refused to answer, which is shocking even for a member of the Trump cabinet.

Rep. Clark had specifically cited a Christian school in Indiana that receives state dollars through a voucher program but reserves the right to deny admission to students “from a family where there is homosexual or bisexual activity, or practicing alternate gender identity.”

Rep. Clark asked, “If Indiana applies for funding, will you stand up that this school be open to all students?”

DeVos responded with platitudes about parents knowing the best choice for their child, failing to come up with a single example of a discriminatory policy that would, in her eyes, merit withholding funding. Rep. Clark said she was shocked by this answer. We should all be shocked.

Democratic leaders, including Presidents Obama and Clinton, have promoted increasingly quality public school options like charter schools because choice means nothing without strong accountability for both school performance and civil rights. The model of school choice that Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump advocate, in which schools are free to discriminate and harm students without federal oversight, is not just bad policy. It is shameful that a sitting education secretary would so dismissive of the federal government’s role of safeguarding civil rights in education.

Katherine Clark is doing the important work of holding Secretary DeVos accountable for her reckless approach to education policy. As Democrats who support both expanding high-quality education options for all students and ensuring that those options are accountable for civil rights and student outcomes, we stand with Rep. Clark and applaud her for defending the civil rights of all students and families.

Liam Kerr

Needham