Questioned by a persistent lawmaker on Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students should not be eligible for federal dollars, backtracking from an answer she gave last year.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) had pressed DeVos on the issue at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing last May. At that time, DeVos indicated she thought the importance of state autonomy and parental choice should allow schools with such discriminatory policies to still qualify for federal dollars.
This year, Clark again focused on the issue at a similar hearing and DeVos finally relented, saying these schools should not be eligible for the money.
Clark’s questioning stemmed from Education Department’s 2019 budget proposal, which calls for giving more than $1 billion to school choice initiatives. Such programs ― which are currently only supported at the state and local level ― help families use public dollars to fund scholarships to private schools.
A HuffPost investigation previously found that many institutions that participate in these programs ― at least 14 percent of religious schools ― have explicit policies discriminating against LGBTQ students.
“I cannot find a single state that protects LGBT students within the states’ voucher anti-discrimination laws,” Clark said at Tuesday’s hearing. “State dollars flow to private schools that are allowed to discriminate. I couldn’t find any case where that didn’t happen.”
Clark asked DeVos whether approval of her department’s budget would mean federal funds ― in addition to state dollars ― would flow to these exclusionary schools.
DeVos repeatedly tried to evade the question, saying that “where federal dollars flow, federal law must be adhered to,” along with variations of that response. But Clark repeatedly demanded a “yes” or “no” answer.
“Is there some problem? Yes or no. Would you guarantee?” asked Clark.
Pinned down, DeVos complied with Clark’s request and said that “yes,” schools with discriminatory polices should be precluded from federal funds.
“Took a year,” Clark said in response.
Watch the full exchange above.