June 6, 2017

In a heated exchange during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Sen. Jeff Merkley tried to force Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to explain her position on "murky" federal laws defending LGBT students from discrimination, but she robotically answered, "Schools that receive federal funds, federal law must be followed."

It was an intense back and forth Trump's new Education Secretary refused to explain her position in any kind of way except to fall back on a standard talking point that didn't address the issue.

After DeVos testifying that all charter and private schools that receive federal aid must follow all the federal laws regarding discrimination, parroting Jeff Sessions, Sen. Merkley was not satisfied with her answer since it had no weight.

Merkley said, "Those laws are somewhat foggy in that area so I want to be absolutely clear, about what you're saying."

The Senator explained that private schools have their own admission policies, "that they will not be allowed under your program to discriminate against LGBTQ students?"

DeVos replied, "I said it before and I'll say it again that schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law."

When you're uncertain what a law is, this is a standard response to cover all the bases.

Merkley pushed again and she replied, "On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees...that is a matter for Congress.”

"Is discrimination going to be allowed or not allowed to your understanding?"

That question shouldn't be hard to answer unless you're for discrimination of the gays.

DeVos said it's up to Congress and the Supreme Court to decide.

Merkley said, "Are you refusing to answer the question?"

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

"What you said earlier didn’t help us since this in an area of unsettled law, but I think you just said that where it's unsettled such discrimination will continue to be allowed under your program. If that's incorrect, please correct the record, ” Merkley said.

Sen. Merkley tried to get her to respond on the grounds of religious discrimination, but she stood on her original answer, "schools that receive federal funds, will follow federal laws period."

"You're refusing to answer the question..."

He was flabbergasted that the Secretary of Education (office bought and paid for!) would refuse to affirm that she's banning discrimination in her programs.

She finally said she's against all forms of discrimination, but refused again to give a yes or no answer if her charter and private school programs ban discrimination against LGBTQ students.

We're already fighting this on another front: discrimination against special needs and at-risk students. Charter schools keep their test scores up by keeping kids with those issues out. And Betsy DeVos is as willfully ignorant of federal law on that issue as she is here.

She's completely unqualified to hold the office of Secretary of Education. If only that office was not for sale to anti-public interest billionaires like DeVos.

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