- The U.S. Department of Education’s announcement last week that it was rolling back 72 guidance documents related to special education programs sparked angry protests from many advocates and Democrats, Education Week reports.
- In response, on Tuesday, the department released the list again but noted that these documents were targeted because they were simply outdated or had been superseded by subsequent laws and regulations.
- The text of the core laws relating to special education services cannot be “procedurally or substantively lessened" without Congressional action, but this incident illustrates both the hair-trigger negative response DeVos’ office is facing as well at the need for greater transparency and better communication on the part of the Education Department.
The establishment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was such a controversial, outside-the-box decision that many people are watching the Education Department more closely than in the past. Her office has made some bold decisions that have angered many, including ending an Obama-era policy of seeing whether individual civil rights complaints might be caused by systemic violations and requirements that schools allow students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identity.
One of the major issues that people are watching closely is DeVos' approach to special education. During her confirmation hearing, DeVos was reportedly confused about the fact that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law, prompting concerns that she would not adequately enforce its protections. Since then, she has made several statements on the issue. However, opinions about her approach to the topic range from considering DeVos a threat to children with disabilities to seeing her as a defender of special education laws.
In July, DeVos said she wants more options for special education. Speaking at the Office of Special Education Programs Leadership Conference, DeVos reportedly said that past administrations of both political parties have failed to fulfill the promise of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The actions of the Education Department this week at least indicate that she and her staff are looking closely at the issue. The actions of special education advocates and Democratic critics this week also indicate that they are watching closely, as well.