I was asked to write about the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing and special education. So here is a quick rundown.
I was pleasantly surprised at some of the questioning by Democrats. I know education reform is often bi-partisan, but the Dems hit some high notes tonight. I came away with much respect for Sen. Patty Murray.
And Sen. Sanders just has a way doesn’t he? That question, and the ease of which he asked it, about whether Betsy DeVos would be there if she wasn’t a billionaire was priceless. No pun intended.
A great question was about whether the years of underfunding of special education would be addressed. I thought it refreshing. I mean, who asks that anymore?
Actually, I have a cold and don’t remember the Senator who did ask it! I’m sorry. Someone tell me.
I loved that Sen. Murray gave Sen. Hassan her time at the end to drive home the fact that DeVos didn’t know much about students with disabilities.
It was shocking that she didn’t know that IDEA was federal law! That seems like something she could have studied ahead of time. It certainly should give parents pause. She doesn’t seem to see this area as a priority.
Also, in light of her support of vouchers, it was troubling that she didn’t seem to understand the question by Sen. Kaine about accountability of all schools which would be serving students with disabilities and addressing the IDEA’s requirements consistently.
I think that was my favorite question and a truly relevant one that taxpayers should care deeply about.
If you are going to spend government funds on any private, parochial or charter school, as Mrs. DeVos believes should be an option, they all should be held to the same standards!
One big problem with choice is that many good private school administrators don’t want it. They don’t want to have outside regulations.
That leaves substandard private schools, or church schools, or any kind of school started by anyone who wants to run one. It we had real accountability measures in place, these schools wouldn’t last long or they wouldn’t be started in the first place.
Another problem is that private schools and charters don’t work at a level playing field.
Charters push out students with disabilities and second language students. They usually have rules for parents and students. If those rules are broken students are dismissed.
Traditional public schools are not permitted to weed out challenging students. Why should choice schools get to do that?
And private schools—everyone assumes they do well—but they push out students too, and they don’t give tests like traditional public schools. We don’t know how they do.
When DeVos quoted a high number of parent satisfaction in Florida with McKay Scholarships, many parents use the money for parochial schools. The school may or may not provide special education services. This should not be allowed. It is, of course, not the purpose of the voucher.
Most private and parochial schools do not provide special education services, unless they are a special education school meant for students with disabilities. Even in those schools there should be accountability measures in place so we know they aren’t failing students.
Which is strange, since most vouchers go to students with disabilities. So yes. Make IDEA mandatory for any student with a voucher. It makes sense. And I think you will see vouchers fall apart.
So while Betsy DeVos will probably still be confirmed, at least great questions were raised and special education was not ignored.