While parents wonder what will happen to their children with disabilities and their schooling due to the possibility of cuts to Medicaid, we’ve wondered, where’s Betsy?
As families try to make sense of the information provided online by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, it would be nice to see DeVos speak out in support of children on this issue.
Never fear. Betsy has been getting some lessons in her Special Education 101 class at Trump University. O.K. I made that up. I don’t know who’s coaching Betsy.
It couldn’t be Jason Botel, Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. Botel came from Teach for America and KIPP.
I also don’t think DeVos ever appointed an Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and How to Cheat Students Out of Services person—probably she hopes special education and IDEA will go away without a director. I digress.
The point is many children who attend public schools have medical needs. These children are not going away.
She is Studying Law!
In Education Week, Christina Samuels writes, “DeVos to Special Educators: Families “Shouldn’t Have to Sue” For School Options.” Ouch!
In this case the Supreme Court claimed that programs for students with disabilities must be “appropriately ambitious.” They rejected the notion of schooling that is “De minimis” (too trivial or minor to merit consideration, especially in law).
According to Education Week she said, De minimis is preposterous. A unanimous supreme court—and that doesn’t happen every day—displayed common sense in interpreting [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] to apply a better standard to Endrew and all our students.
Wow! Many of us agree, Betsy DeVos! Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap.
Vouchers, Vouchers, Vouchers!
However, Betsy’s solution is vouchers. It’s not fair in her thinking. Why should only one family get $70,000 to send their student to a private school after the public school special education program hits the skids?
DeVos doesn’t mention how it came to be that the program and public schools in Douglas County were not doing well by this student.
Nor does she seem to understand that most charter schools don’t do special education. Nor do most private and parochial schools.
There would be a dearth of choice options for those with real special education needs. Only the wealthy would be able to use their vouchers for the best private education.
As we have seen in states with special education vouchers, most students still fail to get their needs addressed, as Anya Kamenetz noted in the NPR report “For Families With Special Needs, Vouchers Bring Choices, Not Guarantees.”
In Florida, for example, many parents use special education vouchers to send their children to religious schools or schools that provide little special education.
There aren’t many schools that want to take on the expense of a student with special needs. As noted in the report, Private schools that cater to students with significant special needs, like Woodland Hall Academy in Tallahassee, can charge $20,000 and up. Here’s a little background on Woodland Hall.
Perhaps DeVos thinks everyone is rich and can attend wealthy private schools. Perhaps she has a problem understanding reality, a learning disability of her own.
Or, maybe, in Special Education 102, the sequel, Betsy will learn about the problems that public schools, and more specifically, special education, face due to draconian funding cuts and the push for school privatization.
Special Education Problems in Douglas County and Colorado
Shouldn’t it be in Betsy’s job description to visit Douglas County and learn why the student in Endrew, called Drew, was not getting the services he needed? What went on behind the scenes?
What problems were the teachers in his classes facing? If Drew was getting a substandard education, so were other children. Shouldn’t we be worried about those children too?
Could the class trouble been due to a lack of special education funding or support? What was happening in that school district that could have affected Drew’s special education?
I have wondered about a 2013 article, published in The National Review, by Frederick M. Hess and Max C. Eden, titled “The Most Interesting School District in America?” It described drastic school reforms that took place there—in Drew’s school district.
The Douglas County School District is trying to do something truly new. An all-Republican school board has created the nation’s first suburban school-voucher program, introduced market-based pay, allowed its teachers’ union contract to expire, and developed a regimen of home-crafted standards and assessments in lieu of the Common Core (which superintendent Liz Celania-Fagen dismisses as the “Common Floor”). Former Reagan secretary of education William Bennett has opined that Douglas County is “trying to do all the good reforms at once.
Maybe those market-based reforms weren’t so great.
Drew seemed to do well in his special education classes until 4th grade. Did the changes in his instruction coincide with the reforms made to the school district?
What Impact Do Funding Cuts Have On Special Education?
Also, in 2009, a report “Without Funds, Colorado’s Special Ed Often Can Fall Short” by Karen Augé, appeared in The Denver Post. It painted a disturbing story about special education. Drew’s family first filed their case in 2010.
Here were the noted problems:
- Children with learning disabilities no longer received special education services.
- They were rerouted into general education classes where they faced teachers with little preparation to serve them.
- The use of restraints and seclusion increased.
- Colorado ranked 51st in state contributions to special education.
The report describes another child who, like Drew, also with autism, once did well in school but also in 4th grade, became out of control “aggressive, even combative.” What was it about 4th grade? Why was there a breakdown?
Get With The Program, Betsy!
Betsy DeVos needs to address the real needs of parents and children when it comes to disabilities.
She must quit promoting vouchers every chance she gets. There’s more to this job than that. Even if she believes in vouchers, they are not going to happen overnight, if ever. She needs to address the serious business that exists now!
And she needs to quit pretending she cares about special education. Everyone knows better.
Come back to reality, Betsy. Talk to real teachers teaching in underfunded special education classrooms. Visit some overcrowded inclusion classes.
Take a real special ed. course from a real university. Do whatever it takes. Families and children with special needs are relying on you.
You’ve got a critical job to do!
Samuels, Christina. “DeVos to Special Educators: Families ‘Shouldn’t Have to Sue’ For School Options. Education Week. July 17,2017.