Metro spoke with Mimi Cocoran, President and CEO of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, which is based in New York City, on the implications of Betsy DeVos’ education reforms for disabled students.
What does Secretary DeVos mean when she says she wants to expand educational opportunities for disabled children?
There isn’t a road map there. We will be looking very carefully what she is going to propose. For us, there are lots of ways of expanding, using Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and Response to Intervention (RI). I think it’s the thoughtfulness that will go into any of the choice structures she might establish. We’ll look to her to be supportive.
How would a system that favors funding for charter schools and vouchers affect students with disabilities?
A voucher is only good if it provides enough of the right resources, and we have to make sure there’s due process for voucher allotment for the rights of students with disabilities. We need to make sure we are creating a free and appropriate education for them, and are not isolating them. Creating diverse environments are a key to success. One-in-five students have a disability, but given the right support and access they prove to be as intelligent and capable as any of their peers.
Are you concerned about DeVos’ apparent confusion about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) not being a federal law?
We put out a statement that it’s a serious concern, but we believe this individual will work hard to build a team to provide her with the information she needs to be successful, and we have a whole team available to her that will help her on that journey to understanding.
And we want to make sure that she doesn’t have a conflict of interest in her involvements, or an appearance of impropriety, because that can have an effect on the policies.