U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos denounced state constitutional amendments preventing public funds from being spent on private religious schools in a May 16 speech to the Alfred E. Smith Foundation in New York City. These amendments are on the books in 37 states, including New York and DeVos’ home state of Michigan.
These laws, often called Blaine amendments after Republican Congressman James G. Blaine, who proposed a similar change to the U.S. Constitution, are intended to ensure the state isn’t funding religious instruction and supporting any particular faith. DeVos blamed 19th-century anti-Catholic sentiment for their creation and expressed hope they would soon “be assigned to the ash heap of history.”
According to Maggie Garrett, the legislative director at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, DeVos has “a simplistic and inaccurate view of the history.”
DeVos visited several religious schools during her trip to New York City on May 15-16 — but snubbed the city’s public schools. The New York City public school district serves 1.1 million students, making it the largest district DeVos oversees. Education Week, May 16