The Department of Education & Learning Disability Funding In The Era of Betsy DeVos

The Trump administration’s culture of unaccountability is no secret to anybody with their eye on the news. Whether it be human rights violations at the border, the transformation of the Supreme Court to a partisan tool of presidential legislation or the rolling back of civil rights for millions of Americans, the current administration’s murky exploits are covered extensively in all forms of media.

Sadly, protections for our most vulnerable have not been exempted from this pattern of legislative bedlam. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has shown the same disregard for inclusive civil liberties as the rest of Trump’s hand-selected appointees. In this post, we take a brief look at the effects of Betsy DeVos’ term as Secretary of Education – with emphasis on funding and rights of Americans with learning disabilities.

From Transition Team Appointee to April 2019: What’s Changed So Far

It’s important to note that Betsy DeVos is the only US Cabinet nominee in history to be confirmed by a 51-50 margin in the Senate, with the tiebreaking vote coming from the Vice President. Now in 2019, it’s clear her unpopularity was well warranted. Here are just a few of the most significant changes DeVos has made involving special needs students:

October 2nd, 2017: Scrapped 63 Guidance Documents From The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
Less than two years after her confirmation, Betsy DeVos rescinded dozens of guideline documentation outlining rights for special needs students as part of the Trump administration’s promise to “deregulate” American academic institutions.

October 2nd, 2017: Revoked 9 Guidance Documents From The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)
Later that same day, DeVos went on to quash 9 more guidance documents which were created to protect learning disabled children under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and Rehabilitation Act. This made for a total of 72 rescinded guidance documents in a single day – including documents outlining the rights of disabled students to anything from school integration to physical accessibility.

March 27th, 2018: Announced A Delay On Regulations Meant to Control The Under-Identification of Students of Color For Special Education
An Obama-era regulation addressing the disproportionate discipline and designation of students of color for special education has been delayed for two years by Betsy DeVos, in the Trump administration’s continued effort to roll back regulations it deems unnecessary. This decision has proven especially disastrous in districts with high rates of poverty and other risk factors.


Beyond Betsy DeVos: The Trump Administration’s Indifference to The Disabled

The so-called “beneficial deregulation doctrine” of the Trump administration has also harmed the disabled via legislation outside of the Department of Education. In 2017, the Republican-controlled Congress introduced the ADA Education and Reform Act, which significantly hampered the enforcement of Americans with Disabilities Act regulations and guidelines, reducing compliance by businesses. At the Department of Justice, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions scrapped over two dozen guidance documents mostly introduced by the ADA.

Deregulation might be good for mega-corporations and banking CEOs, but it has only complicated the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens. Perhaps with increased activism and media coverage, the Trump administration will consider being more inclusive in their deregulatory prioritization practices.