The US Department of Education is a federal agency that oversees 4,400 employees and a budget of $68 billion dollars, as reported by the Department of Education. Of its many purposes, prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education is a mission important to all students, especially to students with disabilities.

Betsey Devos, nominated for Secretary of Education by President elect Donald Trump, could potentially undertake the huge responsibility of overseeing federal policy and funding for private, public, and charter schools across the nation. Her many tasks as Secretary of Education would include managing and allocating the $68-billion-dollar budget, serving as an adviser to the President on education, and enforcing federal education policy, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.

This act, originally enacted as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975, basically ensures students with a disability are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs. It protects the rights of the both the student and parent through many safeguards, that can be found on Parent Center Hub.

During Betsey Devos’ confirmation hearing on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 many topics were brought up including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. As reported by The Washington Post , Devos seemed unaware this act was a federal law that requires every school funded by the government to meet its requirements. When Senator Tim Kaine questioned Devos’ opinion about the government requiring all schools to meet the requirements of the act, she said “I think that is a matter that is best left to the states.” Kaine responded “So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good and, what then, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how kids are being treated?” to which Devos responded “I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states.”

When questioned by Senator Maggie Hassan, who has a son with cerebral palsy, Betsey Devos admitted she was unaware that IDEA was a federal law stating “I may have confused it”. When Hassan pleaded Devos to become more knowledgeable about IDEA, Betsey Devos simply stated she would be “very sensitive” to the needs of special needs students. As Secretary of Education, sensitivity to the special needs community is not enough. Dismissing education policy enacted to protect the rights of parents and students with disabilities is not enough.

What do you think about the nomination for education secretary? What are you concerns about her leadership and the future of special needs education?

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