Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Wednesday that she “should have decried much more forcefully the ravages of racism in this country.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, DeVos walked back a comment she made in February in which she suggested that historically black colleges and universities were “pioneers” of school choice.


“When I talked about it being a pioneer in choice it was because I acknowledge that racism was rampant and there were no choices,” the education secretary told AP. “These [schools] provided choices for black students that they didn’t have.”

“My intention was to say they were pioneering on behalf of students that didn’t have another choice. This was their only choice,” DeVos said. “At the same time I should have decried much more forcefully the ravages of racism in this country.”

DeVos told AP that the Education Department was not involved in the Justice Department’s inquiry into an allegation of race-based discrimination brought by dozens of Asian-American groups against Harvard University.

She stressed the integral role K-12 education plays in granting equal access for students with regard to higher education.

“It is not fair to think that when students transit through a K-12 system that is not preparing them for beyond, that somehow we are going to wave a magic wand and things are going to be perfect for them at the higher-ed level,” she told AP.

In May, students booed and turned their backs on DeVos when she spoke at Bethune-Cookman University commencement exercises.

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