Who will Betsy DeVos choose to run the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)? Anyone? Will she leave the position vacant? Will the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services be dismantled?
Education Week is reporting she hasn’t chosen anyone yet. One would think, since she didn’t understand the meaning of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), she would have wanted someone in this job immediately. But there the position sits, with someone temporarily sitting in.
Is Betsy DeVos disorganized? Or, is something sinister going on?
Not placing anyone at the helm of OSERS to advocate for students with special needs could be one way to hit the program hard in such a way it may not recover. With no one advocating for the children, the federal government would be able to make budget cuts to special education and use the money for other projects.
Many Republicans advocate for the end of the U.S. Department of Education. Sometimes it is not clear to them exactly what the federal government does for public schools. But there are many programs that depend on the department. IDEA is one of those programs. It is a federal mandate.
A while back the Center for American Progress outlined how eliminating this department would affect education in general and more specifically special education. Five million children and students with disabilities would lose $12.7 billion used every year to ensure that they receive a quality education.
It’s no secret that many want to see the death of special education in our public schools. It’s expensive and requires teachers who are specialized.
Looking around the country, one finds states working overtime to cut special education. The State of Texas denied services to students for years! Parents everywhere have become increasingly suspicious and frustrated with a decline in special education services within their schools and school districts.
Several states have passed special education voucher programs. But students lose their IDEA rights and protections if their parents accept a voucher. Parents often use these vouchers for religious schools with no special education instruction. This is exactly what Betsy DeVos might encourage. So taxpayers pay for vouchers that don’t do what they are supposed to do. Students with disabilities usually do not get the help they need.
Overall, all of this goes a long way towards eliminating special services for students and puts America back in the ugly place we were before IDEA. There is grave concern that the future of special education will be substandard charter schools with no opportunity for students with disabilities to be with their non-disabled peers. Such schools will not provide students the instruction and opportunities to thrive and lead a life full of opportunity.
The absence of a special education leader in the federal government to take up the fight for special education will be a huge step to dismantle the program. This is one more reason to worry about education reform under Betsy DeVos.