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Betsy DeVos Writes Letter to Sen. Johnny Isakson Stating She Will Protect IDEA

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Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Department of Education, has written a letter to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), to clarify her stance on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), after she “might have confused” IDEA with other legislation at her Senate confirmation hearing last week.

DeVos’ lack of knowledge regarding IDEA, a federal law ensuring special education services to children with disabilities, paired with the fact she holds no teaching credentials or qualifications, has left parents and educators concerned about the future of American education. Since her nomination was made public, more than 1 million people have used an online form from the National Education Association to urge their senators not to confirm DeVos, while another 40,000 have called their senators using hotlines. In the week following her Senate hearing, almost 300,000 people have signed a petition against DeVos based on her misunderstanding of IDEA.

Now, DeVos has written a letter to Sen. Isakson to clarify her stance on IDEA and show she understands the law. Whereas at her hearing, DeVos stated enforcing IDEA was “certainly worth discussion,” she now writes, “I am committed to enforcing all federal laws and protecting the hard won rights of students with disabilities.”

DeVos goes on to say she will work to improve the quality of individualized education plans (IEP) as well as promote school choice for students with disabilities, noting:

I believe that all students. including individuals with disabilities, deserve an equal opportunity to lead full, productive and successful lives. To that end, I am committed to supporting the remarkable parents and educators who make this vision a reality for students with disabilities in states and communities across our great nation. IDEA requires a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment for all students with disabilities.

Responding to DeVos’ letter was Sen. Maggie Hassan, who questioned DeVos’ commitment to students with disabilities, an issue close to Hassan, a special needs mom.

While I’m glad Mrs. DeVos clarified that she is no longer confused about whether the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law and was able to define the basic tenets of this law, her letter does nothing to reassure me that she will enforce the IDEA or honor our commitment to ensuring that all students receive a free and appropriate public education. In addition, Mrs. DeVos failed to address the original question I posed to her in her confirmation hearing, which was about why she is comfortable with voucher programs that force parents and students to sign away their rights under IDEA.

Between her lack of experience with public education, her support for diverting taxpayer dollars to private schools without accountability requirements, and her lack of understanding of the challenges facing students with disabilities, Mrs. DeVos has shown herself to be completely unqualified for this position – and her recent letter has only reinforced that she is unfit to serve as Secretary of Education. I will vote against Mrs. DeVos’ nomination and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

You can read DeVos’ full letter, shared by the Washington Post, here

Originally published: January 26, 2017
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