Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

DeVos Grilled Over LGBTQ Discrimination At Bloomington Voucher School

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos faces questions about a Bloomington school whose admissions brochure gives then the right to deny admission or end enrollment for students whose home lives include behaviors prohibited in the Bible, including homosexual or bisexual activity. (C-Span)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos faces questions about a Bloomington school whose admissions brochure gives them the right to deny admission or end enrollment for students whose home lives include behaviors prohibited in the Bible, including homosexual or bisexual activity. (C-Span screenshot)

Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, weathered a volley of questions this week about a Bloomington, Indiana private school that receives state-funded vouchers but reserves the right to deny admission or discontinue enrollment to students from lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender families.

Bloomington’s Lighthouse Christian Academy was held up as an example of a private school that receives tax dollars but reserves the right to discriminate against students, as federal lawmakers questioned DeVos over a budget that plans to spend $1 billion on a federal school choice agenda.

“Is there a line for you on state flexibility?” said Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, referring to states choosing how to spend federal dollars. “You are the backstop for students and their right to access a quality education.”

DeVos refused to say whether her office would withhold funds from private schools that discriminate against students. It’s the latest development in the national dialogue over school vouchers, which allow families to receive tax dollars to pay for private school, and which the Trump administration has targeted as its educational priority.

Watch the full exchange:

Attorney Brian Bailey, Lighthouse Christian Academy spokesperson, defends the school’s admission policy. Bailey was former Gov. Mike Pence’s state budget director.

“It’s a Christian school and, as a Christian school, the school is committed to training children and developing their intellectual faculties and moral faculties consistent with scripture, consistent with biblical ethics, including sexual ethics,” Bailey says. “It’s very transparent.”

Bailey says the school should not have to conform to what he calls the government’s “politically correct ideology on sexuality.”

Lighthouse Christian Academy was featured in our recent collaboration with NPR that investigated Indiana’s voucher program. In its online admissions policy, the Bloomington school includes LGBTQ identities under “behaviors prohibited in the Bible.” It continues to say that, “in situations in which the home life violates these standards” the school reserves the right to refuse admission or discontinue a student’s enrollment.

“A school should be able to teach in accordance with biblical sexual ethics, biblical commands, if it’s a Christian school,” Bailey says. “No family has applied that would be in violation of these biblical conduct requirements.”

Lighthouse received $665,400 in taxpayer-funded voucher dollars this year.

When federal legislators questioned whether DeVos would “stand up” for LGBTQ students seeking to attend a school, DeVos testified she’d defer to states and parents on the matter.

“For states who have programs that allow parents to make choices, they set up the rules,” DeVos said.

Indiana’s voucher system, the Choice Scholarship Program, has garnered increased attention in the national dialogue in recent months. The program, which gives parents state tax dollars to pay for private school, is the largest such program in the country. The $146 million program pays for over 34,000 students to enroll in private schools.

Indiana law prohibits the state from regulating curriculum content and religious instruction or activities at voucher-accepting schools.

Earlier this week, DeVos was in the state to praise Indiana’s voucher program. She visited a high-performing Indianapolis Catholic school that accepts voucher students.

Like many voucher-accepting schools, it enrolls far fewer students with special education needs than the districts it draws from. About 17 percent of Indianapolis public school students have special education needs. Providence Cristo Rey does not teach a single student with special education needs this year.



  • Tim Bayly

    Honestly? You end the article with that drive-by? You should be ashamed of yourself. Journalists are supposed to be capable of thinking independently.

    The reason parents of special-ed students keep their children in so-called “public schools” is that these schools have had long had a monopoly on the tax dollars of the state. After decades of milking taxpayers with impunity, it’s no surprise that the wealth of facilities and human resources they control that are aimed at providing for special needs students dwarfs the attempts of voucher and charter schools to enroll and teach these students themselves. Voucher and charter schools can’t compete with the billions in assets public school districts, their administrators, and teachers sit on top of, fiercely and viciously guarding across the Hoosier state.

    Now though, they finally have some small and pathetically weak competition, so they scream bloody murder.

    It is right then that you, Johnnie-on-the-spot journalist, hammer away at your keyboard, shilling for these taxpayer-funded corruptors of public morals by changing the subject at the very end of your piece, leaving your readers with the high moral dudgeon of “Providence Cristo Rey does not teach a single student with special education needs this year.”

    Real journalism has to be done by independent thinkers capable of resisting the blandishments the rich never stop offering. Had you resisted ending your piece by serving as a shill for the NEA, you would have done well.

    Better than whining about some school up in Indy not having special ed students, you might better have pointed out that the school you are reporting public educators’ attack upon—Lighthouse Christian Academy here in Bloomington (full disclosure: my wife helped to found LCA)—serves poorer families than Bloomington’s public schools, doing so at a third to half the cost charged by Bloomington’s public schools. For example, 40% of LCA’s students qualify for the school lunch program whereas in the district’s two high schools, Bloomington North and Bloomington South, only 33% and 22% qualify.

    It wouldn’t have been hard for you to find this out. The stats are public information and easily available on the web. But instead, you decided to repeat the monopolists’ claim to being the only true servants of the poor. What hypocrisy!

    • Jimmy Johnson

      A common practice of charter schools in Indiana is to take students with IEP’s up until the ADM count so they can get their state allotted monies then send them back to public schools. Who is running a scam now.

      • Tim Bayly

        Yeah, but the common practice of the sexual anarchists milking the taxpayers through their public school monopoly is requiring high school students to watch as they roll condoms on bananas. Bloomington South, but you’re huffing and puffing about IEPs and the ADM.

    • Jimmy Johnson

      Oh by the way, what a great “Christian” response to the article.

      • Tim Bayly

        You think the rulers killed Jesus because he was a Velveteen Rabbit? Dude. You haven’t a clue Who Jesus was. Read the history of his life in, for instance, Matthew. It will be a rude awakening.

  • David Wegener

    There are many students with IEPs who attend private Christian schools and I’d be surprised if none of the students at Providence Cristo Rey High School have them. I have to wonder if Mr. Balonon-Rosen did his homework on this one.

  • Doug Papenmeier

    “Indiana law prohibits the state from regulating…” Hurray for the state of Indiana leaving that choice to the school and parents! Shame on you trying to make that a bad thing!

  • None Needed

    She is a disaster to education. All you supporters of her have “Access to school of your choice”. Keep the separation of church and state. Religion needs to stay where it belongs… in your house of worship and your homes. Please just keep it all to yourselves. Religion has no business invading education, healthcare, or politics. For-profit education systems for children K-12 should never be allowed. its a conflict of interest to weigh the desire of $$$ and the well being of children.

    • Tim Bayly

      “Keep the separation of church and state.”

      “Keep?” Are you serious? As if there is any separation of church and state in the taxpayer funded public school system. You are blind. The public schools exist to promote the false religions of feminism, secularism, materialism, etc. And you have the audacity to tell us to pay our taxes and then sit down and shut up?

      Then there’s the public educators’ promotion of the bloodshed of the unborn through the child sacrifice of abortion.

      The gods worshipped by public school unionists are demonic.

      • None Needed

        Well, if all religion and “worship” as you call it ended tomorrow. This world would be a better place. Church needs to stay where it belongs, in the Church and in your home. Leave the rest of the world out of your bias and unwanted influence. You seem to think that any thoughts contrary to yours are blasphemy. You can have your opinions, as can i, but please for the love of your god, leave your religious views out of the education of children. they deserve the right to learn and choose their own path.

        • Tim Bayly

          God made you, Mr./Ms. Anonymous. In Him you live and move and have your being. You defy Him because you hate Him. It has nothing to do with me. I’m simply His kindness to you, leading you to repentance. If you don’t repent, He will consume you in His wrath which will last forever. May God protect all the students of American from your irrational religion of hatred for God and resistance to His will. You’ve made a very bad choice and school is all about making the right choices. Jesus waits for you to bow your knee to HIm. It’s never too late. Leave your idols and worship the Only True God. In love,

          • None Needed

            Well, when god decides to spend some time with me and have a face to face conversation, i might buy into his plans. However until that day, your convictions and regurgitated interpretations from others don’t shape my existence. At this time, there is no proof of any god, in any context. I don’t hate things, only pity them when appropriate. Modern religions are the poster child for irrationality and hypocrisy.

          • Tim Bayly

            Pity is the hatred of the arrogant.

          • None Needed

            Based on some of your blog postings and your apparent views on what roles are appropriate for women and how men are superior, you would know more about arrogance than I. Perhaps someday you will awaken and begin to support others, not suppress them. However, i will offer you some thanks. If I am ever seeking spiritual guidance, i know which house of faith to avoid.

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