Every day, I leave my home to go to Washington DC to teach my preschool students. This Friday, I had my first successful parent/teacher conference in 6 years of teaching. It was successful because every parent who walked out felt empowered to help their child with resources to support their child, and we worked through the tough talks. After each conference day, I sit and reflect on my students. I sit and think about them one by one.

They are all different. They are not the same. Not only are they different in size, shape, height and socioeconomics, they are different in their abilities. As a teacher and soon-to-be-mommy, I want to know that when their parents drop them off at school, they get the tools they need while in my care, to prepare them for the future. My students are my babies. They give me hope. My colleagues and I make sure that NONE is left behind.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) also makes sure this doesn't happen. It gives my teacher friends and I the resources to support our students, including occupational therapy, speech services, counseling for students, physical therapy, and English language services, among others. Because of IDEA, I was able to advocate for a friend at her daughter’s IEP; her daughter has trouble expressing herself, but we were able to get a scribe to help her. IDEA makes it possible for Special Ed teachers to tailor their lessons for students’ individual needs.

From what I heard at the senate confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos has other plans for me and my students. She wants to take an important federal law such as IDEA and place it in the hands of the states. I say NO to this!

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. Betsy DeVos said in her confirmation hearing that she would give the job of oversight to the states, removing federal oversight to direct what services they can and cannot give to students. She said that if a private agency is given federal funding, she would refer its oversight to the states as well.

This presents a problem for students because it makes educational standards uneven across states. This could mean that in Massachusetts your special needs child may have access to many services, but if you move to, say, Virginia there may not be as many. IDEA is the way the federal government ensures equal access to services for all students.

ALL students no matter their need, or where they live, deserve a great public education. One that their parents are paying for with their taxes. Mrs. DeVos has no experience with educating children, nor does she have experience with children with special needs. If she did, then her response to Senator Kaine’s questions would have been different.

So please, as Americans, call your Senators!! Tell them to vote NO for Mrs. DeVos as Secretary of Education. Our children deserve someone that is more experienced and more qualified to represent our students. It is time that we require the best for our students!!

by: Deirdre Parker
PROUD 6 Year Early Childhood Educator

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