In America, we believe everyone should be educated.
An educated populace is the backbone of democracy.
To that end, we promise to all children the right to a free public education, regardless of socioeconomic status, disability, or immigration status.
Well, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is working hard to do something about that.
DeVos has already decided to rescind support requiring the U.S. Education Department to investigate loan servicing companies’ past conduct before the government awards lucrative contracts. Interestingly, these are the very companies in which DeVos and her family have vested business interests.
She reversed former President Barack Obama’s directive requiring schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms that conform to their gender identities.
She scrapped Obama-era guidelines on investigating college and university campus sexual assault.
Now Betsy DeVos’s Education Department has rescinded 72 policy documents outlining disabled students’ rights.
In a newsletter last Friday, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services wrote:
“A total of 72 guidance documents that have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective – 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).”
These 72 documents codify students’ rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act (IDEA).
Chief policy and advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Lindsay Jones, said:
“All of these are meant to be very useful . . . in helping schools and parents understand and fill in with concrete examples the way the law is meant to work when it’s being implemented in various situations.”
Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Va.) labeled this latest move:
“The latest in a series of disturbing actions taken by the Trump Administration to undermine civil rights for vulnerable Americans. Much of the guidance around [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] focused on critical clarifications of the regulations required to meet the needs of students with disabilities and provide them a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Notwithstanding the actions taken by the Department today, the regulations still remained enforced; however they lack the clarification the guidance provided.”
Some of the cut guidance documents had been on the books since 1980s, such as those clarifying disabled students’ rights in myriad areas, including requiring schools to delineate how they spend federal funds allocated for special education. Others, like “Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Placed by Their Parents at Private Schools,” translated legal jargon into colloquial English so parents were aware of their and their children’s rights.
Lindsay Jones acknowledges this latest move is unprecedented, and is not merely part of the common practice of updating obsolete or redundant policy documents.
“If the documents that are on this list are all covered in newer documents that were released – which sometimes does happen – that would be fine. Our goal is to make sure that parents and schools and educators understand how these laws work and the department plays a critical role in that.”
But Betsy DeVos has not been hired to “make sure that parents and schools and educators understand how these laws work;” she has been hired to undervalue, undermine, and marginalize the Education Department–just as Ben Carson is doing with Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Scott Pruitt is doing with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ryan Zinke is doing with the Department of the Interior, Jeff Sessions is doing with the Justice Department, Ajit Pai is doing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and President Donald Trump is doing with the United States.
Image credit: motherjones.com