In her maiden Congress testimony, Betsy DeVos, education secretary in the Trump administration actively defended her department's $1.4 billion spend on the agenda of expanded school choices. She, however, declined to comment on whether her office will withhold funds from the private schools that discriminate against their students. In her deposition before Congress, she told them that the budget was crafted to empower parents and states to make the decisions concerning their students' education.
More than 20 education programs would be eliminated under the Republican budget plan. Funding would be redirected to expand the school choice initiatives. These are inclusive of a $250 million program which will provide students a number of publicly funded scholarships so that they can attend private schools. According to DeVos, the states will now decide- and not the Education Department- on the decision to withhold federal money payable to private schools which are not under any compulsion to serve a diverse category of students and not publicly accountable for such actions.
DeVos also said participation in the federally funded voucher program and other school choice initiatives by the state would be optional. She said that states which declined to participate are making bad mistakes.
Democrats derided DeVos's spending blueprint for 2018 fiscal year. They said that the plan completely ignored working class and the low income Americans. Rosa DeLauro, a top Democrat from Connecticut, termed the plan “inhumane” and “cruel”. Rep.Katherine M. Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts, questioned DeVos on what her reaction would be if the state which provided federal funding to a particular school which blocked admission of students hailing from lesbian, transgender, gay or bisexual families. The education secretary replied that for those states which permit parents to make their choices, the rules are set up around that. Interestingly, she was not specific about how to protect the rights of students by intervening in the funding decisions of the state.
DeVos stuck to her point that parents must have final say in the kind of schools their children attend. She said that many children are now stuck in schools which are unsuitable for them. The administration is going to solve this problem. Her department's education budget is slashed by about $9 billion. This constitutes 13 percent of the funding provided to the education department. About 20 programs, including Special Olympics for disabled students and after school programs created for the low income students have been abolished.