Hassan Presses DeVos on Enforcing Protections For Students With Disabilities

Jan 18, 2017

Credit Allegra Boverman / NHPR

  New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan repeatedly pressed education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos Tuesday night on whether she would advocate for the rights of students with disabilities.

It’s an issue that’s personal for the Democratic Senator, whose son has cerebral palsy.

At one point, Hassan circled back to a comment DeVos made earlier in the confirmation hearing, in which she said states should be able to do decide whether to enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.

“So were you unaware when I just asked about the IDEA that it was a federal law?” Hassan asked.

“I may have confused it,” DeVos responded.

Hassan urged DeVos, a billionaire Republican fundraiser and education lobbyist, to familiarize herself with the need for such protections for students with disabilities.

“Senator, I assure you that if confirmed, I will be very sensitive to the needs to special needs students and the policies surrounding that,” DeVos said.

“With all due respect, it’s not about sensitivity, although that helps; it’s about being willing to enforce the law to make sure that my child and every child has the same access to public education,” Hassan said. “And the reality is the way the voucher systems that you have supported don’t always come out that way.”

The Senate committee will vote on DeVos’ nomination next week.