DeVos faces Congress amid reports of her secret plan to overhaul Education Department

Trump's education secretary is facing a grilling before Congress on a number of issues

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 20, 2018 4:21PM (EDT)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday, her own agenda for America's children remains a source of considerable controversy.

Last week, the committee's staff learned that DeVos' office had withheld important information regarding the upcoming Education Department budget, which begins in October, according to The New York Times. In addition to requesting a 5 percent spending cut in its budget, DeVos also proposed a $1 billion school choice program and wants to get rid of dozens of other programs in the process. The plan also proposed cutting the number of regional offices in the Office for Civil Rights, a position that officials in the department say has since then been abandoned.

Yet according to a career official at the Education Department, the budget justifications submitted to Congress by DeVos excluded important information about the actual priorities being used to justify them.

"Our concern is about a breakdown in communication, a culture of secrecy and a fear of retaliatory action that has prevented Budget Service from providing House and Senate appropriators and staff, and for that matter, the public, with key information about the department’s plans for fiscal year 2019. Given the potential for some of these proposals to radically impact the way the department carries out its mission, Congress should probably see this," read the email, which was obtained by the Times.

DeVos has already faced tough questions from lawmakers about her approach to the spate of school shootings that have occurred throughout the United States since the start of the year. When she said she wasn't sure she'd have time in her schedule to meet with the survivors of the Parkland school shooting on Friday, she faced criticism, according to ABC News.

"You're not sure that you have the time to meet with the Parkland kids on Friday, and maybe you will have a meeting with the commission in a few weeks, but then, maybe not. You know, Madam Secretary, I think we understand where your priorities are. They are not with the, the young people of this country," chided Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

DeVos was also blasted for her willingness to consider arming school teachers, even though recent studies have found that students who hail from racial minority backgrounds are more likely to be punished by their teachers for the same offenses committed by white students.

"Should the president's view prevail in arming, uh, teachers, do you see why black and brown students are really worried and anxious about this? It's very clear to me. Madam Secretary, you just don't care much about rights of black and brown children. This is horrible," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told DeVos.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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