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Why Betsy DeVos Is Not Right for Children With Special Needs

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Update: On Feb. 7, the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

Betsy DeVos is not right for our children.

When I learned President-Elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, donated over $900,000.00 to his campaign, I was troubled. I became more concerned when I learned DeVos does not hold a college degree in education or any related field and that she has never worked as an educator. When I read that she has never attended public school and neither have any of her children, I was confused. It seemed to me she was lacking any of the obvious and necessary experience to hold such an important position in our federal government.

At the start of the confirmation hearing, DeVos failed to demonstrate any knowledge about a basic education policy, referred to as Proficiency vs. Growth. Later, when asked if schools should be required to follow the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), whether they are public, private or charter, she refused to answer with a “yes or no,” and she stated: “I think that is certainly worth discussion, and I look forward to discussing it further with you.”

No, Betsy, this is not open for discussion. IDEA is not just a suggestion; it is a federal law and must be enforced by the states. This is what we as parents of children who have special needs fight for during the sometimes long and arduous IEP process — not because it is merely a suggestion but because it’s the law that guarantees our children the right to a free and appropriate education (FAPE) no matter where they live or what their parent’s income might be.

Finally, when asked if she would protect the rights of children with disabilities should a voucher system be implemented, she appeared to dodge the questions. Why would she do that? I’ll tell you why: because the model for her proposed education system does not protect the rights of children with disabilities. In fact, for families to be able to participate in the voucher program located in Florida, parents must sign away all their legal rights in the event they are not satisfied with the special education services their child is receiving.

Today I went from concerned and confused to furious and also afraid — not only for my children but for all the children who depend on the special education services they receive from their local public school systems. Services they desperately need to be able to reach their fullest potential.

Betsy DeVos is not the person to represent our most precious resource — our children. I implore the Senate Confirmation Committee: please, do not sell out our kids.

Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

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