Monday, 23 July, 2018

Betsy DeVos grilled about school shootings, stance on guns at budget hearing

The Student Loan Industry Finds Friends in Washington Betsy DeVos testifies on Education Department budget before House panel
Kenny Thornton | 21 March, 2018, 06:44

This weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live addressed what was a particularly tough week for President Donald Trump's White House, tackling Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's firing, as well as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' rambling 60 Minutes interview, which earned her widespread condemnation. The commission has a "very keen sense of urgency", DeVos said, but she wouldn't give a timeline on when it would wrap its work and make any recommendations.

"That is the composition of the commission itself", DeVos said when pressed by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, about the makeup of the commission.

"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".

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) confronted DeVos about the proposed cuts to the department's civil rights office and other programs.

"Congresswoman DeLauro, I believe we have a crisis of violence in our country, yes", DeVos said.

Rep. Nita Lowey of NY, the ranking Democrat on the full Appropriations Committee, asked what response, if any, DeVos had to a November government watchdog report recommending that parents of students with disabilities get better information about the protections they give up when attending private school.

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DeLauro asked whether school counselors could help prevent school shootings by supporting the social and emotional well being of students - and DeVos agreed they "certainly" could. DeVos said if she had to do it over, she would use a different example. DeVos is now reviewing that guidance, and civil rights group fear she intends to rescind it.

"We owe the victims of school violence nothing less", she said.

DeVos said the commission would, among other things, consider whether to ban gun sales to people under 21. There is widespread opposition from parents and teachers, and DeVos supports local control of education issues, DeLauro said. The Obama administration issued guidance in 2014 that instructed schools to pay attention to the problem.

"Will you guarantee as secretary of education that that money is included with nondiscrimination policies for those private schools?" Mark Pocan, D-Wis., referred to that comment, saying, "You made a comment just recently that you haven't visited any poor-performing schools".

DeVos also got into a back-and-forth with Clark, as she did previous year, about the protections for LGBT students in private school voucher programs.

DeVos had said earlier this month that "a wide array of practitioners", including teachers, would be on the commission. Critics say private schools get to choose which students to admit and may discriminate against minorities.

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