"I still can't understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget. It's appalling." - Rep. Barbara Lee to Betsy DeVos
An alternate to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party was surprised when a call last weekend to lobby for the endorsement of MarÃ a Brenes for the LAUSD Board District 2 seat had "Amway" listed as the caller ID. Why would a corporation headquartered in Michigan have any interest in a local school board race? Could it have anything to do with the fact that former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is heir to Amway's $5 billion fortune?destroy the department she was nominated to head. Her experience with public education was so lacking that she could not even get the votes of all the Republicans in the Senate and had to rely on a vote from Vice President Pence to get confirmed. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) explained her opposition by stating that DeVos was "so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and also what is broken and how to fix them."
Once in office, DeVos was particularly insensitive to the needs of children with disabilities. As part of an $8.5 billion budget cut from the Education Department, she proposed reducing support for the Special Olympics by $17.6 million. Despite the fact that the federal government severely underfunds special education costs of local school districts, she proposed a 26% cut in special education grants to states. The National Technical Institute For The Blind and the Federal Program For Print Books For Blind Students also saw drastic funding cuts in her proposal. She did, however, find $5 billion for a tax-credit scheme to help children attend private schools.
Since Brenes refused to answer questions about her views about special education, the voters in Board District 2 are left to guess how she will treat the district's most vulnerable students. Having someone with DeVos' record funding her lobbying efforts would suggest that Brenes would continue Monica Garcia's policy of treating these students like second-class citizens. If the calls supporting Brenes are, in fact, associated with DeVos, the candidate needs to explain herself.
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He was elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and is the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.