“One additional strategy I will pursue is to look for ways to increase access by students with disabilities to a broader range of educational options. I have seen exciting changes in students with disabilities when they attend schools that meet their needs. My friends, Sam Myers and his mother Tera, attended my confirmation hearing last week. Sam, who has Down syndrome, was a Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship recipient. The program exemplifies how states can — and do — implement the federal law and use their flexibility to ensure parents can choose the learning environment in which their children with disabilities will achieve and thrive.“I am eager to bring a sense of urgency around all of these issues: implementation and enforcement of IDEA at federal, state and local levels; improving the quality of IEPs; and expanding the conversation about school choice opportunities for parents of students with disabilities.”
“While I’m glad Mrs. DeVos clarified that she is no longer confused about whether the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law and was able to define the basic tenets of this law, her letter does nothing to reassure me that she will enforce the IDEA or honor our commitment to ensuring that all students receive a free and appropriate public education. In addition, Mrs. DeVos failed to address the original question I posed to her in her confirmation hearing, which was about why she is comfortable with voucher programs that force parents and students to sign away their rights under IDEA.“Between her lack of experience with public education, her support for diverting taxpayer dollars to private schools without accountability requirements, and her lack of understanding of the challenges facing students with disabilities, Mrs. DeVos has shown herself to be completely unqualified for this position — and her recent letter has only reinforced that she is unfit to serve as Secretary of Education. I will vote against Mrs. DeVos’ nomination and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”
The mission of the Department of Education must be to advance a national system of quality public education and protect the rights of all children, including children with disabilities, within that system. Ms. DeVos’ testimony during her confirmation hearing, together with her lengthy record of supporting the diversion of public tax dollars to private schools that limit the rights of students with disabilities, indicate that as Secretary she would undermine that critical mission….
“It’s clear that Betsy DeVos is not, nor has ever been an advocate for children with disabilities. The fact that she didn’t understand the basics about education concepts or the three essential federal education laws is embarrassing and her lack of knowledge on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is appalling. We are alarmingly concerned. Furthermore, she advocates for vouchers writ large — as if they can solve every family’s dilemma.”