Huffman, House Dems to Sec. DeVos: “No Child Should Ever Be Denied a Quality Education”
Washington, D.C.- The troubling congressional testimony of President Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last month prompted Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Katherine Clark (D-MA) to set the record straight to the Secretary about the important role of federal education law in protecting all students, including those with disabilities.
In her testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Secretary DeVos refused to provide one instance where she would stand up for students to protect them against discrimination. Rep. Clark and other members even asked if the Secretary thought a school could discriminate against an LGBT student and the Secretary dodged the question.
At this same hearing, DeVos could not identify her department’s role in protecting students who use publicly funded vouchers, suggesting that states could allow them different levels of protection. That is unequivocally false. When federal funds are used, states do not get to choose the protections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that they will or will not follow. The Department of Education enforces the IDEA, the landmark federal law ensuring that children with disabilities are provided with appropriate education
“Since 1975, federal law has upheld the promise that every child with disabilities would have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential through a quality education that will help prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living,” wrote the members of Congress. “No child should ever be denied a quality education because they have a disability.”
The letter asked for Secretary DeVos to confirm that all schools receiving federal funds under IDEA will continue to be required to provide a free and appropriate education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, as required by law, and that the Department of Education will not use IDEA funds to issue federally funded private school vouchers, or provide funding to a school that does not comply with either FAPE or due process for parents and students under IDEA.
The members also expressed concern over President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal that cuts special education funding. While the budget summary document from the Department of Education states that the President’s budget proposal “maintains approximately $13 billion in funding for IDEA programs to support students with special education needs,” the budget tables with funding levels say differently. The letter asked for clarity on this unsettling discrepancy.
The cosignors of the letter include Mark Pocan (D-WI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Richard M. Nolan (D-MN), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), James P. McGovern (D-MA).
The full text of the letter can be found HERE.