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What Will a Trump Administration Mean for Special Education?

During the lengthy political campaign, President-elect Donald Trump and his surrogates offered few comments about issues related to people with disabilities.  

But the Trump campaign did answer some special education questions in a questionnaire electionslug_2016_126x126.jpgcreated by the American Association of People with Disabilities and the National Council on Independent Living, as part of a get-out-the-vote effort sponsored by those organizations.

Trump said that he would work to eliminate wasteful government programs and work with Congress on special education funding, among many other spending priorities. When it comes to issues such as making sure students with disabilities are exposed to challenging academics, that would be an issue best left to districts, his campaign said. From the questionnaire:

The federal government should have as minimal a role in local public education as possible. That said, the government should protect the civil rights of students with disabilities. There are civil rights mechanisms in place to do just that already, such as the federal court ruling that disabled children have a right to a free and appropriate education. The federal government enforces that ruling and my administration will enforce it when it is violated.  

The campaign gave a similar response when asked about inclusion. "The federal courts have already found that students with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education. To the extent this ruling is not being properly carried out, I will be open to ensuring that it is." 

The questionnaire states that Trump would be willing to consider a cabinet-led task force on bullying.  

The campaign's answers came in mid-October, said Zach Baldwin, the director of outreach for the AAPD. 

The topic garnered only brief mentions on the campaign trail. For example, at an Iowa rally in January, he told a woman with autism who asked about employment plans for people with disabilities that "We're going to work on it. You'll be happy, just watch," reported the advocacy organization RespectAbility.

During the Republican National Convention in July, Trump's son Eric said: "To single mothers, to families with special needs children, to middle-class families who no longer can afford medical benefits sufficient to cover their everyday needs, my father is running for you."

My colleagues at Politics K-12 have spoken with one of Trump's education-team transition members, who has said to expect a less expansive role for the Department of Education's office for civil rights. And they also report that Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina is running to be the chair of the House Education Committee, and that IDEA reauthorization is a top priority. The law was last reauthorized in 2004.


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