There were several senators who I expected would change their vote on Betsy DeVos. In the end none of them did, and I think they need to called-out. Their votes for DeVos were especially unethical due to their past positions, or where they are from.
I will write today about one, William Cassidy, M.D., who is the Republican senator from Louisiana.
Cassidy is a doctor and has been outspoken on the issue of dyslexia.
In his opening statement to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee meeting, in 2016, titled “Understanding Dyslexia: The Intersection of Scientific Research & Education,” he stated, The goal of the hearing is to gain a better understanding of what Americans need to know about dyslexia and to raise awareness in Congress about the parents and children affected by this disorder.
Does Sen. Cassidy think Betsy DeVos will raise awareness about dyslexia when she doesn’t understand the federal law surrounding special education?
Most children with dyslexia attend public schools. Because of underfunding and a lack of services they currently do not always get the help they need to be better readers.
Also, because of the deprofessionalization of the teaching profession, many teachers today do not have a good grasp of how to teach children with dyslexia or learning disabilities.
Because of this, many dyslexia organizations have sprung up around the country. All of them want better services for children with dyslexia. They want teachers to understand the problems associated with reading difficulties.
In addition, many parents look to IDEA and rely on the federal mandate for help. Without it, good services are difficult to get.
In 2015, Cassidy became a hero to parents for his tough questioning of former Education Secretary Arne Duncan concerning dyslexia. The tape can be found here.
Duncan had difficulty answering questions about dyslexia services for students in public school.
Cassidy also seemed to get some facts incorrect, but his robust inquiry gave many parents hope that he would push for better public school services for children with dyslexia.
While I am no fan of Duncan, at the end of this tape, he replies to Cassidy with a statement that may have been overlooked, but which I think now is pertinent.
It was a sharp reply on Duncan’s part.
Answering Cassidy’s criticism as to why there aren’t better programs concerning dyslexia in public schools, Duncan answers, “many of your colleagues are looking to be less directive.”
I think Duncan was pointing out that Republicans do not attempt to get services for schools. They lean toward a free market with fewer regulations.
The Louisiana Key Academy
Cassidy’s wife, Dr. Laura Cassidy (she is a surgeon), started a charter school for children with dyslexia in Louisiana called the Louisiana Key Academy. It gets public dollars.
The appeal of charter schools often depends on failing public schools. If public schools don’t provide services, charter schools and vouchers can obtain a foothold. This is how school privatization works. It is why the defunding of public schools and the loss of services is political and disturbing.
Public schools have been intentionally defunded to open the doors to school privatization since the Reagan Administration. This is especially true of special education. No President and few politicians on either side since have championed saving democratic public schools.
While the Louisiana Key Academy received praise by the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity in 2015, this past December the school earned an F grade from the State of Louisiana. State Superintendent of Education John White gave the school a probation.
I cannot tell if the teachers have appropriate qualifications since no credentials are listed on the school’s website.
It is not my intent to be critical of Cassidy’s school. However, Cassidy’s role as a senator should be to care for ALL children, since he took up the dyslexia fight. This should include securing services for the majority of students in all public schools.
His vote for DeVos was also questionable since, according to the Center for American Progress, Cassidy received $70,200 from Betsy DeVos in campaign contributions. This was the second highest amount out of the many Republican senators who received donations from Betsy DeVos and her husband.
But that he voted for her when she knows little about IDEA is troubling. And for all the complaints Cassidy had for Duncan, I don’t see Betsy DeVos addressing the scientific concerns of parents in the dyslexia community.
The goal of Betsy DeVos will most likely be to open more charters and provide vouchers to charters that fail and/or provide little accountability.
The fear is that she will not enforce IDEA which is in bad need of enforcement.
Parents are also concerned they will not receive the protections of IDEA. They will not know if their children are attending a good school with a voucher. Children with dyslexia will likely not get the help they need to become good readers.
Cassidy looks now to be an opportunist and not a senator concerned with the needs of students with dyslexia.
He won’t be up for reelection until 2020, but time flies. So don’t forget to not vote for him then.
In the meantime, pay close attention to what he claims about dyslexia and schools. I am sorry to say he is not to be trusted.