If you’re easily frustrated, you might need to take a brisk walk before pressing “play” on this video. Massachusetts Congressional Representative Katherine Clark questioned controversial Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about preventing discrimination by schools receiving federal funding. Clark refused to let her avoid the question, though DeVos certainly tried.
Rep. Clark initiated the question at House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on May 24 with a nonhypothetical scenario in which a discriminatory school policy could affect LGBTQ youth seeking an education. The example she chose is Indiana private school Lighthouse Christian Academy that’s currently seeking federal funding. The school has a policy reserving the right to refuse admittance to students whose households entertain “homosexual or bisexual behavior.” Clark asked DeVos if the secretary of education would stand up for the rights of LGBTQ students by ensuring that they would be allowed to attend, should the school end up receiving the federal dollars that it currently seeks.
DeVos, who doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to advocating for students’ rights, first attempted to skirt around the question completely. But Clark quickly set her straight:
“You are the backstop for students in the right to access a quality education. Would you, in this case, say, ‘We overrule and you cannot discriminate, whether it be on sexual orientation, race, or special needs in our voucher programs’? Will that be a guarantee from you?”
When DeVos refused to give a yes or no answer, Clark asked emphatically: “Do you see any circumstance where the Federal Department of Education under your leadership would say that a school was not qualified?” She went on to give a theoretical example about whether schools could refuse admittance to students of color, which DeVos again failed to answer clearly, simply citing “parents making choices.”
After a back and forth with DeVos refusing to decisively answer about defending students’ rights, Clark sharply demanded: “Yes or no?” (Spoiler alert: the secretary of education didn’t answer.)
Give the above video a watch to see the full exchange; thanks to DeVos, you won’t walk away with any more clarity on the state of our education system, but you’ll certainly have a newfound sense of appreciation for congressional badass Katherine Clark.