Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Thursday her department has not begun implementing an Obama-era regulation designed to ensure children of color are not disproportionately punished or sent to special-education classrooms, despite a court order.
Three weeks ago, a federal court ruled that the Trump administration must implement the rule immediately. On Thursday, DeVos told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that the Education Department was still “reviewing the court’s decision and discussing our options.”
Published in the final days of the Obama administration, the rules were supposed to have taken effect in 2018. DeVos moved last summer to delay them for two years. The court decision, issued March 7, was a rebuke of her action.
Under the regulation, states face tighter rules about how they tabulate data about the demographics and treatment of children in special education to ensure there are not racial disparities. Those calculations may tip more states over a threshold that requires them to create a plan to ensure students of color are not being disproportionately targeted.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) pressed DeVos on the matter at a hearing Thursday to review her agency’s budget request for 2020. He asked whether she was implementing the rule, as directed.
“The department is reviewing the court’s decision and discussing our options, and we will move forward from there,” she replied.
“So you are not implementing the rule as of today?” Murphy replied.
“We are reviewing our options,” DeVos said.
The only option other than implementing the rule appears to be an appeal of the court decision.
The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, an advocacy group for children with disabilities. The ruling found that the department violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to provide a “reasoned explanation” for its delay and by failing to consider the costs of the postponement. It lifted the two-year delay DeVos imposed.
The Trump administration complained that the rule could lead to quotas, but the court said that reasoning was flawed.