Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was on Capitol Hill today to testify before Congress about the department’s budget, but instead demonstrated her ability to worm her way out of giving a straight answer to a single difficult question.
During his allotted time, Congressman Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and the ranking member of the House Education Committee, grilled DeVos about the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2015. Scott said that he and other members were concerned that plans approved by DeVos violate the law.
“Sir, let me just say that I have not approved any plan that does not comport with the law,” DeVos responded. “No plans are approved that don’t correspond and comport with the law.”
But Scott wasn’t satisfied, pressing DeVos on how plans that do not measure students performance by breaking them down into sub-groups can be said to be addressing the closure of the achievement gap, which is a provision of the law.
Scott followed up: “How do you comply with the law to require a reduction in achievement gaps if the ranking of schools doesn’t include the calculation of sub-group performance?”
DeVos wasn’t making much headway on addressing that question—as has become her signature move when speaking in a public forum. Then things really started to fall apart:
Scott: How does it conform to the law if sub-group performance is not part of the calculation?
DeVos: All of the plans comport with the law as this body passed. If you are –
Again, sir, all of the plans I’ve approved follow the law as this body passed.
Scott: You going to answer the question? How do you address the achievement gap if sub-group performance isn’t addressed?
DeVos: It is addressed as required by the law.
Scott: How’s that?
DeVos: Whatever the law states it requires –
Scott: What does the law state?
DeVos: The plans that I have approved follow the law as this body passed.
Scott: What is the requirement?
DeVos eventually recited that, yes, she was referring to the correct law, and eventually reached a Pollyanna-ish answer to Scott’s question: the hope is that, even without the federal government mandating it, states will in good faith “go above and beyond and work to close the achievement gap.”
Because they’ve been doing so well on their own thus far! Another win for small government principles, and a huge win for Betsy DeVos in her ongoing quest never to be pinned down on anything.