Groves Academy is a member of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), the pre-eminent organization in the country, if not the world, in disseminating research regarding reading and reading disabilities. IDA is also a convincing advocate for those who have reading disabilities. It is a powerful lobby in the halls of Washington DC as well as in state capitols across the country. We are thankful for the information the organization shares and the influence it has in the way we teach reading, especially to those for whom learning to read does not come easily.
We also agree with IDA that we should question the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education both due to her lack of experience in public education as well as her apparent lack of knowledge with respect to the rights of students in special education as outlined in federal legislation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) passed in 1975. IDEA guarantees a “free and appropriate public education” to children with disabilities, and Ms. DeVos appears to not understand that IDEA is a federal law and not subject to state interpretation. For these reasons alone, Ms. DeVos is not qualified to serve as our nation’s Secretary of Education. Rick Smith, the executive director of IDA, is right to bring this to the attention of IDA members.
I must take exception with part of Mr. Smith’s rationale for determining that Ms. DeVos is unqualified to serve as Secretary of Education. He writes, “I have grave concerns about the qualifications of Ms. DeVos due to her lack of experience in the public education system as well as her record of support for charter and private schools that are not obligated to follow federal education standards or guidelines.”
For a variety of reasons that may be found in my “Education Reform” blog, our public education system is broken, badly broken, and many of our nation’s students are not well served within this system. Charter and private schools provide an alternative to a public education system that has little, if any, accountability. The public education system needs competition to force needed changes. Charter and private schools should be given more opportunity to pressure the monolith public education machine, not less.
While I agree that we should question DeVos’s nomination as Secretary of Education, we should be very clear about why. Her support of charter and private schools is not a reason for not supporting her, and it is not blasphemous to disagree with IDA.