- In her first trip back to Capitol Hill since her contentious confirmation hearing, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos ruffled feathers when she said decisions about how to punish schools that aren't properly serving all students should be left up to states, not the federal government.
- The secretary appeared before the House subcommittee on labor, health and human services, education and related agencies to defend President Donald Trump's education budget request, but it was her refusal to declare schools that discriminate against students ineligible for federal dollars that made the biggest splash during Wednesday's hearing.
- DeVos did say the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights would continue to aggressively investigate all claims of discrimination, but stopped short of saying the federal government would intervene in decisions about how to allocate funding to these schools.
This administration, and the Republican party in general, can generally be expected to fall on the side of less federal intervention and greater state autonomy, so DeVos' stance that the federal government would not get involved in state funding decisions should come as no surprise. Recent changes to Every Student Succeeds Act provisions to require less accountability from states to the U.S. Department of Education were demonstrative of this exact ideal.
On one hand, the idea that vouchers would level the playing field in a free market system for families to choose the most suitable school for their students seems to suggest there's little need for federal intervention in private school discrimination cases. But on the other, while the conversation focuses on private schools, history has shown that public school districts in even the best states can't be trusted to do the right thing by students of color, low-income students and students with disabilities. And what good is it to increase investigations into claims of discrimination if the findings hold no weight? Why should a federal agency look into grievances in the first place if the findings hold no weight?