By: Trever McKenzie ~Copy Editor~
Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing is coming up this week. Great. Wonderful. I loathe the thought of admitting her into the government.
I won’t go into a spiel about how much of a bad choice she is, even if I could. Despite the fact that she lacks any experience in public education (which is literally what she will be dealing with in the Department of Education), despite the fact that privatizing public schools can lead to even larger education deficiencies amongst poorer students, despite the fact that private schools only do well because they can cherry-pick their admitted students (a discrimination case waiting to happen), and despite the fact that private schools largely enforce a faith-based teaching that not every student/family will adhere to, there is one issue that’s even more pressing: special needs kids.
Private schools are exempted from admitting special needs kids and providing personnel to help educate and supervise them. These two problems are extremely bad news for anyone who has a special needs child. Either they struggle finding a school that will even accept their child, or they struggle with finding a school that will provide adequate care for their child. Public schools are required to admit special needs students per the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Free Appropriate Public Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Private schools, on the other hand, are not required by any of these laws to provide adequate education for special needs kids.
These students cannot assimilate into education like their able-bodied classmates. Because of their disabilities, they don’t function socially the way that most students do. Ultimately, private schools can choose to admit special needs students if they wish, but they do so through an application process that lumps them with able-bodied students instead of considering their unique situations. Even if they choose to admit these kids, they don’t have to provide personnel to care for them. In fact, there aren’t laws that mandate that private schools have to provide the same standard of care that public schools provide.
There’s also the issue of cost. Private schools are not cheap – the average cost of a private school is $10,003 a year, ranging anywhere from $8,908 to $13,538 a year in most states. Lop that onto the average income of most middle/lower class families and the extra costs needed to provide proper care and rehabilitation for special needs kids, and you can see where this might start to be a problem, especially in lower class families who already struggle with the expenses of life.
Privatization of public schools would have a serious effect on the ability of special needs kids to learn. Any private school could openly turn away a special needs kid if they deem that the cost needed to provide them proper care is too much. This isn’t an issue currently because there are still public schools available for those turned away from private schools. However, if public schools become privately run, this could be a serious issue, especially if students cannot find a school in their area.
Privatizing schools is not the answer. Public schools do need reform, but making them privately run is not the way to do it. Public schools, ultimately, need more funding. Without proper funding, the services they provide will be inadequate, and while private schools might seem like the right solution to funding issues, the idea of selected admission and lack of requirements for standard of education can result in a lot of under-educated children.
No one should have the right to decide what child deserves an education, nor what education they deserve to get. The point of the Department of Education is to set a standard for each child that provides them with the necessary tools needed to navigate the world. Getting rid of public education, the only option for many students, will not result in more educated children.