Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Disability Advocates React to Potential Secretary of Education: It Ain't Pretty

Tonight I went on Twitter and asked for any organization or parent who cares about special education to tell me why they support Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education. I'm reading all the reactions I can find, and let's just say it's not exactly a balanced debate. The consensus: She's unqualified, has no history of supporting public education, and at best is "confused" about the rights of students with disabilities. Here's a small sampling:

Charles P. Fox, a Chicago attorney who has a child with special needs and writes the insightful "Special Education Law Blog," was way out ahead of this issue, blogging back on Dec. 7 about "Defending Public Education under Secretary of Education DeVos." About special education, he notes that while charter schools must adhere to federal laws including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a 2012 report from the Government Accountability Office noted that "federal intervention is needed to ensure that students with disabilities are able to access their free appropriate public education in charter schools." He predicted we'd be reading a lot more about this nominee, and he was right.

Alice Wong, founder of the Disability Visibility Project:
"She kept repeating that it's a matter for the states when this is a federal act. This is pretty basic knowledge that any educational professional should have."

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH):
"Not only did Mrs. DeVos decline to commit to enforcing IDEA, but she said she was confused about whether it's a federal law. The fact that a nominee to lead the Department of Education seemed unfamiliar with the federal law to protect students with disabilities -- a law that she would have a major responsibility in enforcing -- is unacceptable."

American Association of People with Disabilities:
We are "very concerned that Ms. DeVos seems unfamiliar with the IDEA and the protections it provides to students with disabilities. Should Ms. DeVos be confirmed as Secretary of Education, she must become more familiar with the law and commit to ensuring that it is fully funded and enforced."

Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA):
“The fact that she doesn’t understand the basics about federal education law is just appalling. It was pretty clear to us that she is not, and never has been, an advocate for students with disabilities. We are alarmingly concerned."

Lindsay Jones, National Center for Learning Disabilities:
“Parents of children with disabilities want the next U.S. secretary of education to uphold the federal rights, protections and opportunities provided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Anything less is a disservice to America’s 6 million students with disabilities. It is clear we have more to learn about where Ms. DeVos stands on this topic and how she will ensure our children are protected.”

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