The House of Representatives has rejected some significant cuts to federal education spending proposed by education secretary Betsy DeVos and President Trump in the $1.3 trillion spending bill awaiting Senate approval.
DeVos and Trump wanted to cut the Education Department’s budget by $3.6 billion and use more than $1 billion to encourage school choice, including funding private school vouchers, but the bill funds the department at $70.9 billion, an increase of $2.6 billion.
However, policymakers denied funding cuts for the department’s Office for Civil Rights, halving federal work-study programs, and spending $250 million on a private school choice program.
Funding for charter schools did increase under the bill, up $58 million to a total of $400 million.The spending bill also includes a boost for after-school programs and adds $610 million to Head Start. DeVos had proposed eliminating the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, which serves needy students, but the spending bill adds an additional $107 million to the program.
The bill provides an additional $8.5 million for the Office for Civil Rights, bringing it to a total of $117 million, and includes $12.3 billion for IDEA special education grants to states, an increase of $275 million.
Despite DeVos’s plans to cut mental health funding, the omnibus bill includes a $700 million increase in funding, for a total of $1.1 billion, for a grant program that schools can use for counselors or other school-based mental health services, and an additional $22 million to reduce school violence.
DeVos has told other media outlets that the reason for requesting a decrease in funding for OCR was because it is processing civil rights claims at a much faster pace than the Obama administration did, and the new structure requires fewer bureaucrats. This a bald-faced lie.
DeVos quietly issued a new OCR Case Processing Manual that took effect March 5, 2018. It added a new section, as follows: “108(t) OCR will dismiss an allegation, or, if appropriate, the complaint in its entirety, when a complaint is a continuation of a pattern of complaints previously filed with OCR by an individual or group against multiple recipients or a complaint is filed for the first time against multiple recipients that, viewed as a whole, places an unreasonable burden on OCR’s resources.”
This means OCR can elect not to investigate a complaint if they have already received similar complaints, or if they simply decide investigating would be too burdensome.
In fact, as I write this, OCR is in the process of dismissing HUNDREDS of civil rights complaints (nationwide) against schools, colleges, universities and other federally funded entities pursuant to 108(t). These are valid complaints that were opened because they were deemed worthy of investigation by OCR. Now they’ve been summarily dismissed.
In my state of Massachusetts complaints were filed against the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (MDESE) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for operating web sites that are inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. I have all supporting documentation to share if anyone is interested.
DeVos has decided to ignore the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. If you are an individual with a disability, and you want to get information about MDESE and/or MIT from their web sites, you are denied the right to do so. And Betsy DeVos is just fine with that.
Ellen M. Chambers, MBA
Special Education Advocacy Consultant
Founder: SPEDWatch, Inc.
Tel (978) 433-5983
As I write this, OCR is in the process of dismissing HUNDREDS of c
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