Third Party & Independents Archives

Weaponizing Special Needs Kids Against Betsy DeVos

It’s not just that Betsy DeVos has not been a card-carrying member of the teacher’s union, nor a long-entrenched education bureaucrat. It’s not just that, yes, she is wealthy - and a philanthropist for causes the left oppose. It’s not just that she does not hide her faith under a bushel.

If you believe disability activists, as portrayed in Elizabeth Picciuto's article in The Daily Beast, Betsy DeVos will leave special-needs children on the sidewalk, waiting for their wheelchair accessible yellow bus, one that never comes anymore. Why? Because they didn't like the tone of her answers at her hearing on Wednesday; where she was grilled especially hard by Senators Kaine and Hassan.

Because she did not give a full-throated approval of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - also known as IDEA - she must of course be ready to turn the clock back to the 50's. How could she not approve of giving special needs children the opportunity to be educated with other children?

Well, she never has said anything remotely close to such a statement. This is all imputed based on the tone of her answers in a hearing on Capitol Hill. What this is about, in fact, is using special needs kids as a high-impact weapon to ensure that the federal government remains firmly in charge of education. Right down to your local school board. Public school board, if you have any civics and decency, it goes without saying.

The logic of the failing status quo education elite goes like this: you devolve money and power to the states, and you will inexorably have more choice in public schools which means some poorly performing schools will have ro reform or see their budgets cut. And that will leave special needs kids without the education that federal legislation - like IDEA - provides.

Let's start with the fact that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, from 1990, was itself a revamp of an earlier piece of legislation - the All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. The federal government did not magically solve the problem of special needs education by suddenly enacting IDEA over 25 years ago. This is an ongoing process in which society at large, and the education system specifically, try to provide innovative solutions to the challenges special needs kids face.

Why are disability activists assuming that vouchers and greater choice mean special needs get left behind? Could it be that a special needs student is as deserving as any student of a range of options that her or his parents can choose from, in deciding on the best school to educate their child? The point is not to declare that IDEA is an untouchable piece of legislation. It's to ensure that states have the flexibility to provide the best educational system possible to their students.

People might want to take a few deep breaths before accusing Betsy DeVos of somehow not caring about special needs students. She has spent a good part of her life caring about education. Activists might find she cares far more about the challenges special needs students face than they are giving her credit for.

Unless, of course, their real goal is to undermine her nomination. Seeing she's not on their side of the aisle.

Posted by AllardK at January 19, 2017 7:17 PM
Comment #412412

My wife devoted 33 years to public education in Texas with the last eleven spent as an educational diagnostician. She worked exclusively with children to determine special needs.

I can attest to the volume of paperwork she was required to file with the feds to confirm that her school was in compliance. The hours she and others in Special Education spent filing forms with the Feds helped not a single child. However, the reading and analyzing of all those forms provided much employment at the federal level for bureaucrats.

As the Federal program became more onerous with increasingly time consuming mandates, the federal funding for the program remained mostly static.

To meet the demand required by the feds took time and funding, ways had to be found to siphon off funding from regular education. (Reminds me of the billions siphoned off from Medicare to fund Obamacare)

I could explain more but believe my point has been made. In education, as in nearly all government agencies serving the public, more money is not synonymous with improved results.

Posted by: Royal Flush at January 19, 2017 7:52 PM
Comment #412449

Rather than address the problem of limiting the bureaucratic overhead, the idea of the Right is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You could make the forms more elegant, digitize it, automate certain parts of it. Instead, the idea seems to be just to remove the requirements.

Betsy DeVos is the spoiled child of privilege, pushing a sectarian agenda at taxpayer cost, siphoning money from institutions genuinely accountable to all parents to ones accountable only to religious minorities.

Now I know you say, more money is not synonymous with improved results. Well, you forget a qualification: “necessarily.” Yes, that’s true. Throwing more money at a problem isn’t necessarily a solution. Budget cuts to education at all levels, though, aren’t a solution, either. There’s a certain point where you’re just grinding up your seed corn, saving money in ways that cost you more down the road. We’re not going back to being a small-town centered agrarian nation, like we were during the 1800s. We’re a modern economy, and we should start acting and thinking that way.

As for her Christian agenda? You can teach people piety, but that does not teach them faith. If they don’t come to it themselves organically, then it is no more meaningful than the white paint on the outside of a tomb. Our forebears were not necessarily more moral than us. In fact, in many ways, our character as a people is much improved. Part of that is, we did more than just say we were going to help the poor, the workers, we did more than just talk about helping the environment, we actually did things. Betsy DeVos and the rest want to leverage their power to take this country down a course most people would not find conservative nor find very positive.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 21, 2017 8:25 PM
Comment #412860

I find it impossible to believe that you could somehow get behind a person that didnt have even a cusory understanding of the education system as we know it. Basic laws. Basic standards. Course of conduct and no child left behind etc. I can honestly say none of my students have Grizzly Bear attacks as the reason they have failed or succeeded.

Posted by: Andre Hernandez at February 2, 2017 8:23 PM
Comment #412861

The correct word was cursory. Sorry.

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Comment #413261

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Comment #424902

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