For a second time during her tenure as education secretary, Betsy DeVos refused to answer whether she believes schools should be permitted to discriminate against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity during an appearance before members of Congress.
On Tuesday, sitting before a House education appropriations subcommittee in defense of the Trump administration’s budget proposal for her department, DeVos was asked repeatedly by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) about the issue of discrimination, The Washington Post reported.
Pocan’s question came in the midst of discussion regarding charter schools and a recent report by a nonprofit group showing significant waste within the U.S. Charter Schools Program.
“Do you think it’s all right for a school to discriminate based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity?” the Democrat asked of DeVos.
She began by offering a vague response about following the law, saying, “We have laws that cover discriminatory efforts, and our Office for Civil Rights has continued to be very diligent in investigating any allegation of discrimination and will continue to do so.”
Dissatisfied, Pocan asked the secretary if she was saying yes or no.
DeVos tried again, saying, “We follow the law as defined. …” — but Pocan interrupted.
“So personally, you don’t have an opinion on it? … Because you are giving money to some charter schools that do discriminate,” the lawmaker said.
According to the Post, Pocan then went on to ask DeVos what, if anything, the department is doing to recoup the approximately $1 billion loss that advocacy group Network for Public Education discovered.
The group’s report says the money “was wasted on charter schools that never opened or were closed because of mismanagement, low enrollment, fraud and other reasons,” the Post reported.
DeVos did not answer the question, only stating her belief once again that the country needs more charter schools.
DeVos encountered a similar line of questioning when she appeared before Congress in 2017 to defend the Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal, refusing at that time to answer whether she believed schools should have the freedom to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The question is one to be left to the states, she said.