California Rep. Barbara Lee said Tuesday that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ “head is in the sand” regarding racial bias and discrimination in the nation’s schools, as she pressed DeVos for more details about the Education Department’s moves to delay or roll back several Obama-era regulations.
“Madam Secretary, you just don’t care much about civil rights of black and brown children,” Lee said as her time expired. “This is horrible.”
Lee’s comments came as she questioned DeVos during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on a variety of topics, including the Education Department’s plan to delay the implementation of an Obama-era rule intended to prevent schools from unnecessarily pushing students of color into special education.
The Obama administration said in 2016 that “students of color remain more likely to be identified as having a disability and face harsher discipline than their white classmates” and issued a rule that sought to ensure that states use a uniform approach to make sure students of color aren’t overrepresented in special education.
The rule was to take effect in July 2018, but the department recently announced its intention to seek a two-year delay in order to seek public comment.
DeVos said the department was delaying the implementation of the rule “to ensure that we have a regulation that really does meet the needs of students who are disabled in any way.”
Pressed further by Lee about the two-year delay, DeVos said that the department was committed to upholding the such provisions, but that there had been “varying opinions and very different approaches to this within the community that are most concerned with this.”
“We want to ensure that we end up with a regulation that does address these issues appropriately,” she said.