When the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – chaired by the former chief of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights – announced it was investigating the department’s civil-rights priorities under Secretary Betsy DeVos*, two right-of-center commissioners dissented.
That dissent has now been released in full by the New American Civil Rights Project, an organization of current and former commission members and staff united by “a commitment to limited government and to equal protection under the laws.”
Peter Kirsanow and Gail Heriot, whose name was floated for permanent OCR chief, wrote pertaining to the commission’s “exaggerated rhetoric”:
Similarly, the statement adopted by the majority expresses concern with budget reductions for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. But the proposed budget cut is only 1.57%. This is after OCR received an unusually large (7%) budget increase in Fiscal Year 2016. In our opinion that 2016 increase was unjustified. OCR has been exceeding its authority for many years now. We would have cut its budget by a larger amount than the Trump Administration chose.
The majority statement also accuses Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of having “repeated[ly] refus[ed] in Congressional testimony and other public statements to commit that the Department would enforce civil rights laws.” This is over the top. Secretary DeVos never declined to commit to enforcing “civil rights laws.” She interprets those laws differently from our colleagues. She could have made that more clear in her testimony before the Subcommittee Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education of the House Committee on Appropriations if Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) had not repeatedly badgered and interrupted her.