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News & Press: Policy

Schools Receiving Federal $$ Must Uphold Federal Law

Tuesday, June 6, 2017   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall

Today, in response to Secretary DeVos’ testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) issued the following statement:


“In direct response to questions posed by Ranking Member Murray about the civil rights of students, including students with disabilities, Secretary DeVos said, ‘schools that receive federal funds must uphold federal law. Period.’ COPAA couldn’t agree more and will do everything in our power to ensure the Secretary and the U.S. Department of Education fulfill their obligations under federal law. We thank Senators Murray, Leahy, Moran and Reed who stood up for the millions of disadvantaged children and their families today.”


Marshall continued, “unfortunately, the Secretary continues to advocate for vouchers and voucher-like-schemes writ large as if they solve every family’s dilemma or as a substitute for public education. She fails to commit to protect against discrimination of our children in schools that accept public funds. And, while she heavily emphasizes state rights, she fails to demonstrate support for families that find it unconscionable to require a parent to give up their child’s IDEA rights in exchange for taxpayer funded tuition support at a private or religious school. As Congress proceeds with the appropriations process, we urge Members to push forward with aggressive funding increases for all parts of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to say ‘no’ to federal funding in support of vouchers and voucher-like-schemes and to increase funds for all parts of the Every Student Succeeds Act as passed by a bipartisan Congress. Investments in IDEA and ESSA can help schools and districts align programs, hire high quality staff and provide the instruction, supports and services that children need.”


Background: Previously, COPAA has communicated to the Department of Education and to Members of Congress that the Department and its leaders must fully support policies and funding priorities that:

  • Ensure excellence in education for all children;
  • Safeguard the protections of the IDEA and Section 504;
  • Combat discrimination in voucher and charter school programs;
  • Enforce State compliance with the IDEA and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); and,
  • Curtail the overuse of exclusionary disciplinary practices, especially seclusion, restraint.


COPAA has also examined the scope of school choice options and their impact on families under IDEA in a June, 2016 report School Vouchers and Students with Disabilities: Examining Impact in the Name of Choice. 


Jennie DunKley says...
Posted Saturday, June 17, 2017
(continued) …The cutback will remove access to a peaceful and lawful avenue for redress and repair. This damaging policy shift, along with the Justice Department’s reversal on the approach to drug prosecutions, is further evidence that this administration’s priorities are flat out backwards. The increase of civil rights cases is a long-overdue result of the surge in awareness of what is right versus what encourages hate; it reflects a renewed, patriotic swelling of disenfranchised American voices saying NO to discrimination. It is not okay to continue to normalize the systemic denial of freedom. Any cutback reinforces a message that our Constitution will continue to serve privileged white male land owners first, and all others are on their own. This must not be our message. Strengthening our commitment to civil rights for all Americans is surely the more reasonable road. Protection for one is protection for all. Be logical; stop this scale back.
Jennie DunKley says...
Posted Saturday, June 17, 2017
The Education Department now says it will scale back on Civil Rights investigations. The NY Times reported on June 16 that: “According to an internal memo issued by Candice E. Jackson, the acting head of the department’s office for civil rights, requirements that investigators broaden their inquiries to identify systemic issues and whole classes of victims will be scaled back. Also, regional offices will no longer be required to alert department officials in Washington of all highly sensitive complaints on issues such as the disproportionate disciplining of minority students and the mishandling of sexual assaults on college campuses.” Is there no logic? A scale back on the civil rights complaint process confiscates civil rights. Preventing investigations because cases are over burdensome is like shuttering FEMA’s weather reporting process because there are too many fake hurricanes. And that’s just one level of wrong…

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