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Question: What does the confirmation of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos mean to the federal government’s commitment to upholding IDEA and supporting public schools in educating and transporting these children? And how should the school bus industry respond?
Answer: When Betsy DeVos, was first nominated by President Donald Trump to be his secretary of education, I was deeply concerned, as were many disability rights advocates, because of her support for charter schools and vouchers and not typically embracing school age children in the disabilities community.
However, what has since become a more pressing concern for me is the newly appointed secretary of education’s lack of knowledge and understanding about the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA is not a new entitlement; it has been around for more than four decades. A strong trait in the IDEA is related services, including transportation. The IDEA assured children with disabilities access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This was made possible by the inclusion of the related service transportation in Public Law 94-142, "The Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975."
It is essential for the transportation community to educate, advocate and support more than 40 years of progress to assure that transportation of children with disabilities will not lose its current status. It is senseless and useless to perseverate on past erroneous statements made by DeVos. The key to assuring the rights of children with disabilities is moving forward with a vigilant vocal commitment and effort to do right by this vulnerable population of children, by ensuring a strong coalition of special educators and transportation professionals working collaboratively to secure a place with full access to the future education arena in of public education, not excluding charter schools and vouchers.
In summary, with the passage of the IDEA more than four decades ago, the landscape and opportunities for children with disabilities experienced vast improvement and inclusion. Federal laws that protect the rights of children with disabilities have paved the way for higher standards and greater inclusion opportunities. This would not have been possible without the provision of the related service transportation.
Impacting the secretary’s knowledge positively regarding the value of transportation and its direct impact on the disabilities community must continue to be upheld. Multiple advocate stakeholders including parents, and policymakers must ensure that all children, with disabilities receive the education they are entitled to under the IDEA. Transportation must continue to pave the way for children receiving aFAPE in all educational settings.
Bluth is a quality assurance and monitoring consultant to the Maryland State Department of Education's Division of Special Education and Early Intervention Services, following 17 years of full-time service at the agency in various senior leadership roles. She is also a past-president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation, program director of monitoring and evaluation for the Governor's Office of Children, Yourth and Families within the Maryland Infant and Toddler's Program and both a coordinator and later chief of nonpublic placments in the Baltimore City Public Schools' Division of Special Education and Early Intervention Services. She began her career as a public school special-needs teacher and has served as an adjunct professor or assistant professor at Ball State University, the University of Alabama, The Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Coppin State University, and Loyola College in Baltimore.