In the beginning, Betsy DeVos didn’t seem to understand IDEA. Now it looks like she is out to get rid of it!
Here is her recent statement in response to an Education Week writer’s question about reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
I think Congress needs to seriously look at the commitment they made when passing the act to fund it. I think there has to be a review of the act and all of the mandates put on states. It doesn’t match up with the funding. I think that there’s opportunity to support parents whose kids are using an [individualized education program], or have an IEP to allow them more flexibility in making decisions around their child’s education, and I think that certainly is an area that should be reviewed regularly by Congress.
We find out DeVos is learning about special education funding. She suddenly realizes there’s not enough money, and that there’s never been enough money.
As Education Week states:
Back in 1975 when the special education law was passed, Congress set a path for the federal government to contribute 40 percent of the state average annual per-pupil expenditure. But Congress has never gotten close, and the federal contribution is currently about 15 percent of what Congress said it was going to pay, and what it later amended to be a funding “goal”.
When Betsy DeVos was asked whether she would fight for full funding of IDEA, 40 percent of the excess cost of educating a child with disabilities, she said, that’s a “fair question for Congress.” And in talking about changing demographics, Response to Intervention is mentioned as a way to keep students out of special education.
However, she never really answers the question.
Her conversation centers around “piled on regulations” in special education. Instead of paying for services, she wants to deregulate, thereby allowing for funding cuts.
This would also destroy IDEA and leave children with disabilities to fend for themselves. It’s stepping backwards to the time when children with disabilities had no rights.
What DeVos Deregulations Mean to Special Education
Policymakers should look at regulations, especially having to do with the enormous amount of paperwork and high-stakes test administration facing general and special education teachers.
But this is not what Betsy is talking about.
Her deregulations will open the door to privatization.
Currently, parents lose their child’s protections under IDEA if they accept voucher money. This makes parents pause when considering a voucher. Betsy DeVos wants to lessen requirements of those protections to push her loosey goosey choice plan.
The federal government has never been on board for funding special ed. President Gerald Ford didn’t have a Rose Garden ceremony for the signing of the law. Arne Duncan criticized special education in his own way. And IDEA reauthorizations were put in place years ago to water down PL 94-142—the original law. ***
Now, Betsy DeVos is the person who could end it for good. And she will do it by dropping regulations mandating services.
If parents believe charter schools and private schools will address the diverse needs of children with disabilities, they need to read the history as to why Public Law 94-142 was created in the first place.
Last week, Betsy DeVos visited a private school for students with autism. The school gets public funding because parents won a court case (Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District). Their child was not getting the necessary special education services from Douglas County Schools.
This may be a good school, but it looks like there is no inclusion.
The Douglas County Schools special education program went downhill due to corporate reforms, and they appear to have made funding cuts to programs for students with disabilities.
During the DeVos visit, she made a point to slam public school teachers for not providing students with autism what they need in public schools. From the Denver Post: Minimum progress for students with disabilities, she said, “is preposterous. Our students deserve better.”
No one disagrees with her. I don’t know any teacher that didn’t think the child in Endrew (all children) didn’t deserve better.
But blaming teachers who face poor conditions, dwindling resources, and a variety of other atrocities due to a lack of funding and a breakdown of regulations is pure hypocrisy!
Betsy DeVos should be looking into the problems general and special education deal with in their schools. But you won’t see her doing this, because when teachers and schools fail, it opens the door to vouchers. The more deregulations in special education, the fewer services there will be for children in public schools.
We know she wants to deregulate other areas in education too. Civil rights, Title IX, the Dream Act, teacher preparation and Title IV are examples.
This past August, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA), an independent nonprofit organization of parents, attorneys, advocates, and related professionals, wrote a letter stressing the importance of regulations in a variety of education programs overseen by the U.S. Department of Education.
They wish to protect the civil rights and education on behalf of 6.5 million children with disabilities.
My thanks to Denise Pairent Diaz who inspired me to write this post. She is a constant supporter of all children especially those with dyslexia, a great researcher, and always knows the right words to say at the right time.
Klein, Alyson. “Q & A: One-on-One with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.” Education Week. September 18, 2017.
Samuels, Christina. “DeVos Says Federal IDEA Mandates ‘Piled On,’ Don’t Match Funding.” Education Week. September 18, 2017.
***In my book Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students, Chapter 4 is “Special Education: Abandoned Commitment” where I outline history surrounding PL 94-142 and how reformers have continually chipped away at this law.