June 6 (UPI) — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faced some intense questioning on Capitol Hill on Tuesday about President Donald Trump‘s goal of cutting $9 billion from the department.
DeVos appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies to defend the proposed budget cut.
Democrats on the panel peppered the education chief with questions about why the president wants to take the money from the department — including a $1.2 billion cut from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports after-school programs for children.
DeVos said fewer than half of U.S. students who qualify are using the program.
“That data may be true nationwide, but that data is not true in New Hampshire,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said. “So why are you going to make the students in New Hampshire suffer for the fact that there are programs in some places that aren’t working as well as they should?”
The education chief responded by saying there are other opportunities for New Hampshire to support other related programs that are more successful.
“There’s flexibility if you have money — but if there aren’t dollars there, how can we support these types of programs?” Shaheen answered.
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley also demanded answers about the administration’s plan to spend $1.4 billion on a school voucher program — a central tenet of DeVos’ agenda that would let parents to use federal funding to send their children to private schools.
The Democrat wanted to know if schools receiving the funds would be allowed to discriminate against gay or transgender students — an issue Trump’s administration said earlier this year it wouldn’t fight in the courts.
“This department is not going to be issuing decrees,” DeVos said, telling Merkley the schools must follow federal law. “That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle.”
Last year, President Barack Obama‘s administration issued a directive to U.S. schools to allow transgender students restroom freedom. After Trump took office this year, DeVos and the Justice Department said it would not seek to implement the order.
“Discrimination in any form is wrong. I don’t support discrimination in any form,” DeVos replied.
Last month, the education chief proposed a 13 percent cut in funding for fiscal 2018.