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Betsy DeVos Higher Education

Betsy DeVos slammed for calling historically black colleges school choice pioneers

 (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is in hot water over a statement that tied the history of black colleges to school choice policies.

On Monday, President Trump and DeVos met with the leaders of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Following the meeting, DeVos released a statement recapping the event. It began by praising the schools for their innovation.

"They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education," she wrote. "They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution. HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice."

Only, "the system" that "wasn't working" at the time, some have pointed out, was Jim Crow-era segregation.

HBCUs were founded before 1964, when segregation was legal and access to higher education essentially nonexistent for black Americans.

The DeVos statement is "inaccurate and a whitewashing of U.S. history," Marybeth Gasman, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Minority-Serving Institutions and an expert in historically black colleges and universities, told Politico.

On Tuesday, DeVos released the full text of the speech she was slated to give later in the day at the HBCU congressional luncheon, which acknowledged the colleges' history. "Your history was born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War," the speech reads.

Trump released an executive order Tuesday afternoon that moved an HBCU initiative from the Department of Education to the White House. The initiative, the order states, should work to “increase the capacities” of these schools by boosting the “private-sector role” and enabling their students to better access federal financial aid.

.2:33 p.m.: This post has been updated to include the executive order.

This post was originally published at 11:19 a.m.

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