Wednesday, February 1, 2017

An Open Letter to the Senate Regarding Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary

Dear Senators,

I wanted to write to you to let you know how deeply concerned I am with the Education Secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos.   First of all, I do not feel she has the experience needed for this position.  She hasn’t been in charge of a large organization, she has never been an educator, she has no personal experience with the public school system and she seems to have a personal agenda.   

The most concerning reason I am personally against Betsy DeVos; however, is her apparent lack of knowledge or expertise in special education services in public school settings.  She didn’t even seem aware of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) at her confirmation hearing.  IDEA is a crucial and highly important federal law that protects students with disabilities.  I do not feel that civil rights matters such as those protected in IDEA should be left up to the states as she indicated.  I believe all children with special needs no matter where they live should have the “opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education.” 

Let me share why this is of such personal importance to me.   My six-year-old son, Parker, was born with an extremely rare genetic condition called a 6q12-16.1 deletion.  This means he is missing some of the genetic material on his 6th chromosome.  His specific diagnosis is so rare that we know of no one in the entire world with his exact deletion.  This diagnosis has caused numerous medical issues (he has a trach and is tube fed and is followed by over a dozen doctors) and he has significant developmental delays.  He can’t walk independently or talk and he gets sick often.   

Before the implementation of laws like IDEA, my son would not have been able to go to school due to his needs.   However, because of IDEA and the resources and supports provided to special ed students like him, he is able to attend school with his peers and set and achieve goals.  And the wonderful part is, due to the services he gets in school, Parker is making progress and gaining new skill sets and abilities.   I believe all children deserve an opportunity to achieve their highest potential and I think that will be extremely difficult if some of Betsy DeVos’ ideas move forward.    

Besty DeVos is a proponent of vouchers and charter schools.  My fear is that if healthy children use vouchers to go to charter schools or private schools and the funding follows those children (as she has advocated for), then public schools will be left more as institutions for children with disabilities and low income students who are not able to make up the cost differences to attend the other schools.  Public schools will be left with the neediest children but with limited funding and resources.  This will lead to less support and services and lower outcomes which will impact society as a whole.  

Please carefully consider the negative impact Betsy DeVos could have in the position as Education Secretary.  Children like my son deserve a chance at a great education to help them be the best they can be.   I do not feel comfortable leaving my son’s future in the hands of Betsy DeVos.
Best Regards,
Sara Ladd

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