In testimony before Congress Wednesday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to say she would deny federal funding to private schools that discriminate against certain classes of students. That, and other responses from DeVos to questioning by members of a House appropriations committee during a review of the Trump administration’s education budget proposal, prompted NEA President Lily Eskelsen García to tweet that DeVos was “throwing students under the bus.”
Eskelsen García tweeted that DeVos is still unqualified and still using alternative facts. “We should invest in what makes schools great, the things that build curiosity and instill a love of learning,” she tweeted.
The Trump-DeVos budget would slash the federal investment in public education programs by a whopping 13.6 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, eliminates at least 22 programs, and cuts $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives overall.
During questioning, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin, challenged DeVos on private school vouchers, noting that Milwaukee’s school voucher program has resulted in years of failure. When he pressed DeVos on whether the federal government would hold recipients of public money accountable, DeVos punted, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Times documented this exchange:
“Wisconsin and all of the states in the country are putting their ESSA plans together,” said DeVos, referring to the Every Student Succeeds Act, a school accountability law. “They are going to decide what kind of flexibility … they’re allowed.”
“Will you have accountability standards?” Pocan asked.
“There are accountability standards,” DeVos said. “That is part of the ESSA legislation.”
That’s not true. ESSA’s regulations state that the law’s accountability rules do not apply to private schools.
Earlier, Eskelsen García released a statement saying the Trump-DeVos budget “is a wrecking ball aimed at our nation’s public schools.”
“Their budget shows how dangerously ill-informed they are about what works for students and in public education. Their reckless and irresponsible budget would smash the aspirations of students, crush their dreams, and make it difficult for them to go to college and get ahead.
“We should invest in what makes schools great, the things that build curiosity and instill a love of learning. That is what every student deserves and what every parent wants for his or her child. It should not depend on how much their parents make, what language they speak at home, and certainly, not what neighborhood they live in.”
“Even worse, DeVos and Trump have made failed private school vouchers a cornerstone of their budget. Vouchers do not work and they take scarce funding away from public schools — where 90 percent of America’s students enroll — and give it to private schools that are unaccountable to the public. Spending money on voucher programs means denying students the opportunities they deserve in their neighborhood public schools.
“With this budget, Trump and DeVos want to slash billions of dollars from public education, but it’s more than education programs. These deep cuts will harm students and will have a direct impact in the classroom, but these cuts will also reach far beyond the schoolhouse doors. These budget cuts will hurt every working family in America. And that’s why we have to call on Congress to reject the Trump budget.”
Read more about DeVos’ appearance before Congress:
President Trump’s budget proposal includes deep cuts to education but generously funds a new push for school vouchers. When pressed by representatives at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on the budget, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declined to say if, when or how the federal government would step in to make sure that private schools receiving public dollars would not discriminate against students.
Congressman Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) tried to grill Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Wednesday about the performance of the Milwaukee voucher program, at one point asking her if she’d send her own children to one of the city’s lowest-performing voucher schools. DeVos demurred on that question during a House subcommittee hearing.