Prior to her confirmation hearing, the ACLU joined dozens of other organizations in urging senators to question Betsy DeVos — President-elect Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Department of Education — about her extensive history of advocating for the use of public dollars to support private, often religious, schools. In addition, the ACLU raised serious concerns regarding the long track record of DeVos — along with several other Trump nominees — in supporting taxpayer-funded discrimination.
DeVos’ hearing on Tuesday evening did nothing to put our concerns about her nomination to rest. At one point, and under extensive questioning, she steadfastly refused to commit to not working to actively support the privatization of our nation’s public school system. One of the most significant shortcomings of vouchers — in addition to draining public schools of desperately needed resources — is that students who attend private and religious schools are deprived of civil rights protections that would otherwise be afforded to them.
One of the most disturbing exchanges of her hearing came under questioning from Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that ensures appropriate services to children with disabilities throughout the country. DeVos argued that protections for students with disabilities were “best left to the states.” She said this despite the fact that federal laws like IDEA and the Americans with Disabilities Act require schools to act to ensure that the civil rights of students with disabilities are upheld. Considering her dim view regarding federal protections for students with disabilities, Devos, it’s safe to assume, would take the same position regarding protections for LGBT students.
One of the most significant shortcomings of vouchers is that students who attend private and religious schools are deprived of civil rights protections that would otherwise be afforded to them.
If all of this wasn’t disturbing enough, Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept documented that DeVos lied regarding contributions made by her and other family members through their foundations, including to some of the most anti-LGBT organizations in the country. Sen. Hassan asked DeVos whether she served on the board of her mother’s foundation — the Prince Foundation (formerly The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation) — during a period in which large donations were made to Focus on the Family. DeVos flatly said that she was not on the foundation’s board. However, as Scahill points out, the foundation’s tax filings tell a very different tale. DeVos was clearly listed as a vice president of the board until at least 2014, during the precise time when the donations to Focus on the Family were made.
Following this week’s hearing, the ACLU’s concerns about the nomination of Betsy DeVos have only increased.