DeVos: All schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law

DeVos: All schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law
© Greg Nash

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday that all schools that receive federal funds will be required to follow federal civil rights laws.

“Let me be clear, schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law,” DeVos said during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies hearing on President Trump’s proposed budget for the Education Department.

Her response came to Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats turn on Al Franken VA slashes program that helps homeless veterans obtain housing: report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Wash.), who forcefully pressed DeVos on whether she would require private schools that receive federal funding through her proposed school voucher program to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and federal civil rights laws, including Title IX anti-discrimination laws. 

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“Even schools that are in the voucher program?” she asked, pressing further.

“Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law. Period,” DeVos reiterated.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Senate nixes provision boosting conservative college after uproar Overnight Energy: Panel advances controversial Trump nominee | Ex-coal boss Blankenship to run for Senate | Dem commissioner joins energy regulator MORE (D-Ore.) also had a fiery exchange with DeVos over whether she will prohibit private schools that receive federal funds from discriminating against LGBT students.

DeVos again said schools that receive federal funds must follow federal laws, but Merkley pointed out that the federal laws in this area are foggy.

“On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees,” DeVos said during the Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

“That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle.”

“Is discrimination going to be allowed or not allowed under your understanding?” he pushed after that response. 

“I’m going back to what I said earlier,” DeVos replied.

 “Well what you said earlier didn’t help us since this in an area of unsettled law,” Merkley retorted.  

Her statements mark a turnaround from earlier this month, when DeVos refused to rule out giving federal funds to schools that discriminate.

In defending Trump’s proposal to spend $1.4 billion to expand the school choice program, DeVos told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee that it would be up to states to decide whether to withhold federal money from private schools that are neither required to serve a diverse pool of students nor held publicly accountable for doing so, The New York Times reported.