The nomination of Betsy DeVos for the position of secretary of education drew enormous amounts of criticism and resulted in an incredibly close vote in the Senate. DeVos was confirmed, despite two Republicans voting against her, thanks to the tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Betsy has only officially been in the position for a few days, but some are already voicing concerns about where things are headed for education under her leadership.
During her confirmation hearings, Betsy DeVos tripped up over questions related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). When pushed to pin down her stance on how IDEA should be handled federally, particularly when it came to private or charter schools, she stated repeatedly that she thought these issues should be left up to the individual states. Once it was pointed out to her that this was a federal law, she noted that she perhaps had gotten a bit confused.
These statements and answers alarmed many educators and parents of students with special needs, and now a change made to a website online has raised additional red flags. As the New York Daily News details, a page related to the Individuals with Disabilities Act was pulled from the United States Department of Education website just prior to DeVos’ confirmation. The page was first posted during President George W. Bush’s time in the White House and it had become a valuable resource for those needing a clear understanding of IDEA.
The department has not replied to inquiries requesting an explanation for why the page was removed and both Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell, both from Washington, have spoken up and demanded answers regarding why the resource was removed. The webpage currently has a note about technical difficulties and it posts the text of the lengthy statute. However, the page differs greatly from what was up prior to DeVos’ confirmation and much of the information that was most helpful to educators, students, and parents has disappeared.
As Huffington Post details, the prior version of the webpage was seen as an incredibly useful resource for administrators, teachers, parents, and students impacted by IDEA. The online resource shared not just the text of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, but it broke things down into more useful ways and included numerous additional resources and updates as they became available.
Murray and Cantwell termed the previous page a “critical resource” in a joint statement and they were outraged that this resource that helps those advocating for children with disabilities was suddenly taken away without explanation. The site contained not only the specifics of IDEA, but also presentations, sample forms, summaries, and numerous training materials.
The Department of Education webpage is not the first to undergo massive adjustments since President Donald Trump took office. The White House website itself was changed dramatically within moments of Trump’s inauguration and many became alarmed at the volumes of information that were deleted.
Of course, it is not unexpected that many pages would be adjusted as the new administration makes its mark, but the changes that have been made since Trump’s inauguration have appeared to be more significant than what is typical. Prior to this IDEA page being replaced, people noticed that all Spanish-language pages were taken off of the White House site, along with pages related to civil rights, government regulations, and climate change.
Thus far, DeVos has not commented on the deletion of the Individuals with Disabilities Act resource page. The administration has said little regarding other similar changes, but it is clear that senators like Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are not going to back down on their demands for information on this latest situation. Will Education Secretary Betsy DeVos fully support IDEA and reinstate the resources that were recently pulled from the Department of Education website, or do parents, educators, and students have good reason to worry about where things are headed?
[Featured image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]