LETTER: Betsy DeVos to Senator Isakson on IDEA Enforcement
On January 28, 2017, Valerie Strauss posted a piece about a letter that Michigan billionaire and US ed sec nominee Betsy DeVos wrote to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee member, Johnny Isakson (R-GA) regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
It is no secret that DeVos did not understand IDEA during her January 17, 2017 Senate HELP Committee hearing interactions with Senator Maggie Hassan. (View the DeVos-Hassan exchange below.)
Whether Isakson asked DeVos to clarify her position on IDEA or DeVos chose of her own volition to send her explanation to Isakson (and possibly other HELP members) is not clear. However, based on the text of the letter, it is clear that DeVos is trying to smooth over a rough moment in her hearing.
Before I comment further, it might be helpful for readers to view DeVos’ entire letter to Isakson.
The full text is as follows:
January 24, 2017The Honorable Johnny Isakson
United States Senate
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510Dear Senator Isakson,Thank you for the opportunity to more fully explain my position on the importance of protecting the rights of students with disabilities and ensuring that they receive the quality education they need and deserve. I am committed to enforcing all federal laws and protecting the hard won rights of students with disabilities.The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, commonly called IDEA, protects the rights of students with disabilities to gain access to a high-quality education. I would like to address three specific aspects of IDEA: (1) the federal role in implementing IDEA, (2) the importance of a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and (3) my passion for expanding educational options for parents who have a child with a disability.Federal Role in Implementing IDEAI believe that all students, including individuals with disabilities, deserve an equal opportunity to lead full, productive and successful lives. To that end, I am committed to supporting the remarkable parents and educators who make this vision a reality for students with disabilities in states and communities across our great nation. IDEA requires a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment for all students with disabilities.At the federal level, we need to guide and monitor compliance while supporting states with the tools they need to help parents, schools, districts and other stakeholders succeed. For example, we must fund research and disseminate information about evidence based practices that work best for students with disabilities.Individualized Educational Program (IEP)At the federal level, we must encourage states to work with parents, schools and districts to create more effective IEPs that are useful for increasing learning gains for students with disabilities. IEPs must include measurable annual goals for monitoring progress and clear information for parents aboutLETTER: Betsy DeVos to Senator Isakson on IDEA Enforcement | deutsch29: