DeVos raked over the coals by Rep. Barbara Lee for trying to hide data about Black and Latino children

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Donald Trump has stuffed his Cabinet full of all manner of crooks, ignoramuses, and opportunists but few agitate such a visceral reaction from reasonable Americans as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for the simple reason that her terrible policies directly affect vulnerable children. Here is a woman who wasn’t content to simply sit on her vast fortune in peace, but chose instead to join a cruel, incompetent administration so that she could accumulate even more power and wealth.

DeVos was called to testify before Congress today about Trump’s 2021 education budget and found herself repeatedly and rightfully taken to task by Democratic representatives.  Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California wasn’t afraid to directly challenge the Secretary on the topic of systemic discrimination towards Black and Latino students, zeroing in on DeVos’s elimination of programs aimed at ensuring that students of color aren’t subjected to harsher punishments than white children.

Lee brought up new proposals from the Department of Education that could disproportionately affect children of color. Specifically, Lee wanted to know why DeVos’s department wants to remove race and ethnicity as data points collected on preschool student suspensions. Doing so would make it much harder to judge how fairly or unfairly students of color are being treated.

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Rather than giving a real answer, DeVos insisted that she loves children and wants them all to have the opportunity to get a great education. She unconvincingly claimed that her department has been focused on “answering and responding” to Congress’s requests.

“You said that last year Madam Secretary,” Lee said, refusing to fall for DeVos’s obfuscations. The Secretary, in turn, rambled off more platitudes while flashing a fake smile. Lee refused to back down.

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“Madam Secretary, you tell us that every year but what about Black and Latino kids?” Lee asked. DeVos tried to interrupt her but the Congresswoman managed to remain on task. “You’re trying to mask this by saying you’re not going to collect the data by race, so how in the world are you going to be able to say you care about Black and Latino kids?”

Rep. Lee then asked the Secretary about an education report on the adverse impacts of resegregation that the Secretary failed to deliver to Congress despite her obligation to do so.

“That is not the case. We are responsive. We have continued to be responsive to the many requests from Congress,” DeVos responded robotically. Lee again reiterated that the Department of Education has not been responsive and that such stonewalling hurts Black and Latino children who are being kicked out of school in addition to their systemic racial disadvantages.

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“Madam Secretary this committee has asked you for this data and instead of providing the data and the reports you’re now trying to mask it by saying you’re not going to use race and ethnicity to even present the facts? So how can you sit there and say that? We ask you over, and over, and over again every year,” Lee said, growing visibly frustrated with DeVos’s nonanswers.

Again, DeVos spit out her rehearsed line about caring about children.

“But you’re not showing that,” Lee shot back.

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“A report does not solve a child’s problem. A report is not a child’s future,” DeVos said in an incredibly condescending manner. Somehow, Lee managed to keep her cool in the face of the Secretary’s patronizing strawman argument and asked again for an explanation.

DeVos pivoted to shilling for charter schools and said she’d “check on” when the reports would be delivered. One would have to be a fool to believe her after this performance.

Watch the blood-boiling interaction below.

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Natalie Dickinson

Natalie is a staff writer for the Washington Press. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been freelance blogging and writing for progressive outlets ever since.

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