Trump Education Secretary won’t rule out taxpayer funding for private schools that ban gays

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Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stunned Congress by refusing to rule out taxpayer funding for private Christian schools that ban LGBT students.

Appearing before a U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Donald Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was asked about public funding for private faith schools that operate discriminatory admission policies.

Democratic Rep. Katherine Clark raised the issue of the Lighthouse Christian Academy, an Indiana private school in receipt of $56,000 state funding that denies admission to students with gay families.

She explained: “The school currently recieved over $665,000 dollars in state values for students to attend their school. They are also clear in their handbook and guidance that if you are from a family where there is ‘homosexual or bisexual activity or practicing alternate gender identity, you may be denied admission’.

The lawmaker asked the Education Secretary to make sure that federal funding was conditional upon schools being open to all students.

She said: “Is there a line for you on state flexibility? You are the backstop for students and their right to access equality in education.

“Would you, in this case, say ‘you cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, special needs, in our voucher programmes’. Will that be a guarantee from you to our students?”

However, DeVos said states should have the option to decide whether schools that receive federal dollars can intentionally discriminate against LGBTQ students.

She said: “Thank you for your question about school choice… for states who have programs that allow for parents to make choices, they set up the rules around that.”

Asked if there was any situation in which she would intervene, DeVos said: “I believe states should continue to have flexibility,”

The Education Secretary proceeded to claim that the situation was “hypothetical”, but Clark corrected her: “It’s not a hypothetical. It’s a real school.”

But DeVos added: “The bottom line is we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children’s schooling and education decisions.

“Too many children are in schools that don’t work for them. We have to do something different… states and local communities are best equipped to make these decisions and framework.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said: “By turning a blind eye to LGBTQ students who experience discrimination in school, Secretary DeVos has once again proven why she was the wrong choice to lead our nation’s education system

“DeVos once claimed she was an LGBTQ ally, but has now supported back to back policies that would erase LGBTQ students from classrooms. If she wants to be known as more than an anti-LGBTQ activist the time is now to reverse course.”

DeVos previously sparked anger by revoking federal discrimination protections for transgender kids, reversing policies put in place under President Obama.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump all greenlit the change, deciding to revoke guidance that extended civil rights anti-discrimination protections to cover gender identity as well as sex and race.

DeVos defended the decision, claiming that the anti-discrimination protections had been a “very huge overreach” by the Obama administration.

Her nomination was supported by the Log Cabin Republicans group, which claims to represent LGBT Republicans, despite her anti-LGBT record.

The group also posted several messages to social media urging members to call their Senators and lobby in favour of DeVos’ confirmation, which was only pushed through when VP Mike Pence broke the tied 50-50 vote.