Why Betsy DeVos could be devastating for children with special needs

Some of our most vulnerable children could suffer under school choice policies

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks on Capitol Hill
(Image credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary was controversial for a lot of reasons. Opponents say she lacks experience in public education; supporters say she will bring much-needed change to the school system. But one thing critics have seized on is what DeVos' support for school choice will mean for poor students, particularly those who require special education. These are students with challenges like Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, and Slow Processing Disorder, but also those with dyslexia and autism. School choice could hurt a lot of students, but it is these kids who could be the hardest hit.

Public schools are free because they're paid for by taxpayers. They accept students based on geographic location, regardless of ability, religion, race, or socioeconomic level. When people talk about "school choice," what they're referring to is the practice of giving government funds to parents, who can then use that money to send their kids to a school other than the one that corresponds to their neighborhood or geographic location. Parents have a few options when deciding where to send their kids: private schools, which are privately funded and where a child must apply for admission; and charter schools, which are publicly funded, privately managed, and semi-autonomous where a child must apply for admission.

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Kimberley Moran

Kimberley Moran is a freelance writer and gifted and talented teacher living in Maine. Her writing has also appeared at GOOD, MarieClaire.com, Noodle.com, MiddleWeb, and other outlets.