Serious changes are occurring when it comes to special education. This post is an attempt to tie recent events together.
Under the Trump administration, the Education Department said Friday, it’s rescinding 72 guidance documents to “alleviate unnecessary burdens” and get rid of “unnecessary regulation” having to do with special education and rehabilitation.
They seem to think special ed. is unnecessary.
Also, Bill Gates is adding $1.7 billion to remake public schools, including money for special education charter schools. Do you see where this is going? It’s the perfect storm to end special education!
We already see unfair special education cuts around the country, like Chicago and Texas and small cities and school districts. Politicians and administrators, many who never worked with children, are cutting services like never before.
Parents have recognized these cuts for a long time.
Special education programs are in trouble. It looks like the the changes being made will include segregated special education charter schools for the poor. Currently, charter schools are known for pushing students with disabilities out.
They are non-inclusive. They will be run by anyone with a for-profit motive to open a school.
Step back in time.
Let us remind the Trump team which includes the Gates Foundation, how things used to be, and how far we’ve come when it comes to children with disabilities and their rights.
In 1975, when Public Law 94-142 (before IDEA) passed, it opened public school doors to all children with disabilities.
Before that, children were institutionalized in terrible conditions.
Ten years earlier, Burton Blatt, a special education teacher who would go on to become a professor at Syracuse University, took photographer Fred Kaplan into a state institution. This resulted in Christmas in Purgatory: A Photographic Essay on Mental Retardation. Here’s a link to the pictures.
Warning! The pictures are difficult to look at.
Here’s a video. Also difficult to watch.
Later, despicable conditions were also exposed at Staten Island’s Willowbrook School by journalist Geraldo Rivera and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
PL 94-142, IDEA, and many monumental court cases changed everything. These actions took children out of institutions and placed them in public schools. The law also gave parents much needed support.
But special education has been under attack for years by those who don’t want to pay for it. While the law has never been appropriately funded, in recent years many parents have been denied appropriate services for their children.
Back to the Present
Corporate school reformers hate special education. They want nothing more than to get rid of the law that parents and special education activists worked so hard to get. They will do this through deregulation.
Recently, Betsy DeVos said, in reference to special ed., I think Congress needs to seriously look at the commitment they made when passing the act to fund it.
Devos doesn’t want to improve special education services, she wants to get rid of services altogether!
There’s a connection between all of this. We are looking at the end of special education.
President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hate public education and special education.
They want choice, but there are few choices for students with disabilities. Students with special education vouchers usually attend religious schools. Many are not regulated.
Children with disabilities do not get the help they need.
Vouchers will only give the wealthy a tax break for their students to attend a wealthy school. These schools will be too expensive for the poor.
Bill Gates and His Money
Most educators and many parents realize that thus far Bill Gates has failed at his education endeavors. Funding charter schools for special education should raise serious questions.
It is also sad. This country has never invested in special education like promised. Teachers have struggled to do their best, but there is so much more they could do with appropriate funding, to fulfill the intent of the law.
If Gates had decided to support real public school programs instead of partially funding a second system, think of the good he could have done to improve special ed. for all students.
But he has decided to throw his money at unregulated charter schools which are not covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Gates automatically becomes an accomplice to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Trump.
Instead of creating truly great programs for children, his foundation will take special education programs backwards.
The more special education services are cut in public school, the more parents will look for other options.
Charter schools can’t do special education right unless qualified professionals are hired to team with parents to design meaningful Individual Educational Plans.
It’s one reason charters don’t deal with children with disabilities.
Charter schools that do special education will be segregated schools—meaning there will be no inclusion. Yet parents have fought for inclusion in public schools.
The charters will probably also be online schools—like Rocketship or Summit charters.
Gates should tread carefully here. We don’t want to lose all that parents and educators have worked for on behalf of students with disabilities. We don’t want children in, nor do we want to pay for, unregulated charter schools run by non-professionals.
Klein, Alyson. “Q & A: One-on-One with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.” Education Week. September 18, 2017.
Some Past Special Education Posts Significant to this Issue
I also have a chapter in my book Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Children called “Special Education: Abandoned Commitment.”