By Michelle Diament
July 18, 2017
In her first speech on special education, Education Secy. Betsy DeVos said students with disabilities deserve better and her agency will work to provide more choices for families.
|U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, pictured earlier this year, told a|
gathering of special educators this week that they should expect more
from students with disabilities. (U.S. Department of Education/Flickr)
Speaking at the Office of Special Education Programs Leadership Conference on Monday, DeVos said that past administrations — both Republican and Democratic — have not done enough to fulfill the promise of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
“Too many students are being failed or left behind,” DeVos told educators gathered in Arlington, Va. “It’s time we take a step back, re-evaluate and refocus our efforts to better serve our students and their families.”
DeVos said that under her watch, the Department of Education will prioritize ensuring that kids with disabilities have “appropriately ambitious goals and the chance to meet challenging objectives.”
The statement echoes a standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year in a case known as Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. In the landmark ruling, the court found that schools must provide students with disabilities more than minimal — or “de minimis” — benefit.
DeVos called the court’s ruling “common sense” and said that Endrew’s experience sheds light on the types of options that all families should have.
Dissatisfied that his public school was not pushing for more progress, Endrew’s parents placed him in a private school and then sought reimbursement from their district.
“When it comes to educating students with disabilities, failure is not an option. De minimis isn’t either,” DeVos said. “Every family should have the ability to choose the learning environment that is right for their child. They shouldn’t have to sue their way to the Supreme Court to get it.”
DeVos made a name for herself as a school choice advocate, backing charter schools and voucher programs, before she was nominated to lead the Education Department.
As the nation’s top education official, DeVos pledged to empower families.
“Parents of children with disabilities know best. They should be the ones to decide where and how their children are educated,” she said.