What The Betsy DeVos Confirmation Means For My Special Needs Son

Photo: NBC News
betsy devos

If you haven’t already heard, Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as the Secretary of Education, with a 51-50 vote. Vice President Mike Pence was the tie-breaker.

Never before in history has there been a need for a Vice President to break a tie for a cabinet nomination. Right there, that says something. Even Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, had this to say:

“It’s telling that even when Trump had full control of the legislative and executive branches, he could only get DeVos confirmed by an unprecedented tie-breaking vote by his vice president... That’s because DeVos shows an antipathy for public schools, a full-throttled embrace of private, for-profit alternatives, and a lack of basic understanding of what children need to succeed in school.”

Betsy DeVos didn’t come into her new position with ease; many Democrats and even Republicans pushed for her to be replaced, even spending the last 24 hours, unsuccessfully, in front of the Senate attempting to delay her confirmation through filibuster. 

To call DeVos inexperienced when it comes to the public school system that she will now be in charge of is an understatement. I’m not necessarily against someone who lacks background in the fieldbut as a parent of a special needs son who attends a public school, I’m fearful of her interest in diverting federal funding from public schools to private and charter schools.

During her hearing, when asked by Senator Tim Kaine if schools that receive public funds should follow the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (a federal law that requires states and schools to provide special education for students with disabilities; a law that is currently protecting my son), Betsy DeVos responded with a non-committal “It’s best left to the states.”

What does that even mean?

Does it mean that if the current state in which I reside decides that it’s in their best interest to not provide special education, my whole family would have to move to a state that does? Isn’t education a right and not a privilege?

DeVos can’t possibly understand the importance of public schools because her four children went to private schools and never needed a school loan.

Right now, my son is in Kindergarten. Not only is he in a small class with a teacher-to-student ratio that provides each special needs child the care and monitoring they need, but he and his classmates also receive speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Therapies that could potentially bankrupt a low-income family if there's been a need to go private.

But that’s not even all of it. There’s one more piece to the Betsy DeVos puzzle that scares the sh*t out of me, and that’s Neurocore. 

Neurocore is a center for people with depression, attention deficit disorders, and those on the autism spectrum. One of their techniques has special needs adults and kids watch a movie and be abruptly interrupted when they begin to zone out, which is scientifically unproven to be helpful and could even be considered dangerous. DeVos was a Neurocore board member (she backed out once Trump pegged her for his cabinet) but she’s still an investor. 

Do we really want a woman who has no experience with public education, and who backs a company that could actually hurt the health of children and adults with special needs as the Secretary of Education?

I know I don’t. But I have no choice. The only thing I can do now is there's a checks and balance system in place that will ensure that all the work Washington has done in the past to make sure our children are safe stays in place.

But I won’t lie: The world is scaring me. The choices our leaders are making scare me, not for my own interest, but that of my son’s and all of the children currently in the U.S. school system.

Let's resist this. Let’s make noise. Because some of our children don’t have a voice, and we are their only advocates.