FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 23, 2017
Among several controversial picks for Cabinet positions, none has generated more concern among children’s disabilities and differences advocates than the choice of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education. At her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Ms. DeVos seemed to have no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the landmark legislation regarding the education of children with disabilities.
DeVos said that states should decide whether to enforce IDEA, but when Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) later told her that IDEA is a federal civil rights law, DeVos backed down, saying “Federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play.” Hassan then asked, “So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?” DeVos responded, “I may have confused it.” DeVos did not protest when Hassan said she was upset the nominee didn’t understand the law and urged her to learn about it.
Congress first passed IDEA in 1975. Its primary goals are to protect the rights of children with disabilities and to give parents a voice in their child’s education. Schools must evaluate students suspected of having disabilities. IDEA covers students with disabilities including Autism, Emotional disturbance, Hearing impairment, Visual impairment, Intellectual disability, Specific learning disability, and Traumatic brain injury. In 2013–14, the number of children and youth ages 3–21 receiving special education services was 6.5 million, or about 13% of all public school students. Additionally, it is estimated today that up to 17% of children in public schools have dyslexia.
Implementation of IDEA put an end to the segregation of children with disabilities, providing them access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), just like all other children. Schools are required to provide special education in the least restrictive environment. In addition, procedural safeguards are put into place to give parents a say in the educational decisions the school makes about their children. “DeVos’s obvious lack of understanding about landmark educational legislation has resulted in much concern among leading advocates for children with disabilities and differences,” says Rick Smith, CEO of the International Dyslexia Association, Inc. “Providing assurances that parents can actively participate in their children’s education and providing intervention and assistance in the proper environment are an essential part of constructive and successful education.”
The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), a network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practice for individuals with developmental and other disabilities, has expressed their serious concerns over Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing and urged the Senate Committee to postpone her confirmation vote pending further information http://www.aucd.org/template/news.cfm?news_id=12422&parent=16&parent_title=Home&url=/template/index.cfm? IDA and other reading and education advocates share these concerns.
The International Dyslexia Association’s mission is to create a future for all individuals who struggle with dyslexia and other related reading differences so that they may have richer, more robust lives and the access to tools and resources they need.
Contact: Rick Smith, CEO, International Dyslexia Association, Inc. 40 York Road, 4th Floor, Towson, Maryland 21204. Telephone 410-296-0232
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