Eliminating the U.S. Department of Education?


Representative Thomas Massie, (R) Kentucky, introduced Bill H.R. 899 last month in the House labeled “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.” The Department contains within it, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services Administration (OSERS). OSERS Mission Statement reads: To provide leadership to achieve full integration and participation in society of people with disabilities by ensuring equal opportunity and access to, and excellence in, education, employment and community living.”

OSERS provides a wide spectrum of supports to parents and individuals, school districts and states in special education through the Office of Special Education and vocational rehabilitation through the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). We all know about Special Education services, which are for educating children and adults with special needs from birth through 21. RSA is commonly referred to in the states and territories as Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). Vocational Rehabilitation provides funds for training and aids and equipment to people needing assistance due to their disabilities to achieve both adaptive homemaking skills and most importantly, gainful employment. The two Independent Living Programs (IL) provide homemaking skills training and other independent living skills to maintain independence at home with one program for individuals over 55 and who are blind. Both the VR and the IL programs serve persons with developmental disabilities, visual impairment and blindness, hearing impairment and deafness, spinal cord injuries, and other conditions posing barriers to employment and independent living. OSERS also supports programs such as The American Printing House for the Blind, The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the Helen Keller National Center, Projects with Industry and many more.

If passed, this dismantling vortex will suck in The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act accompanied with expensive and totally unnecessary lawsuits. The effects on Special Education, Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living Services programs will be devastating. Massie’s Bill is reckless, irresponsible and without true merit. His rational is for the States to assume the Department of Educations responsibilities. What a travesty. And of course, there would be no federal oversight over these critical programs. This slash and burn approach in Washington is dangerous as these myopes just can’t see the big picture. Eliminating the Department of Education is not a political party issue, but a human dignity issue. Many of us spent years writing to Congress and testifying to get these laws on the books. Now’s time for everyone including the Disability Rights Advocacy groups to gear up for this battle. It’s time to light the fires on the mountaintops as in “The Lord of the Rings” series and organize for battle against the “Congressional Orcs”.

In the meantime, here are two questions for us to consider regardless of your party affiliation: Can we help Congress see how reckless their actions are, and the potential effects on others from their rash decisions? And, more importantly, will they let us?

Gerry Niedermaier