An open letter to Senators James Inhofe and James Lankford.

My Dear Senators,

Thank you for your work for our nation, for Oklahoma, and for my family.

As a lifelong member of this constituency, as the daughter of an Oklahoma teacher, and as a concerned parent, I implore you to oppose the nomination of Betsey DeVos.

In her confirmation hearing, Ms. DeVos demonstrated a troubling unfamiliarity with issues that face America’s most vulnerable students. We owe it to our students not to place their futures in such unprepared hands.

My son Jameston is in second grade. He has autism and cannot speak; he also has apraxia and cannot sign. He cannot yet tell us when he has a headache or when he’s hungry; he cannot tell us when he needs to go to the bathroom.

Jameston attends a special needs class that would not exist without the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). He needs constant, diligent supervision because he is prone to wandering. He needs a special harness when he rides the bus or he will escape.

At school, Jameston’s teachers, aides, and therapists are teaching him to use communication devices and to dress himself. He’s matching colors. He’s progressing.

Ms. DeVos’s championing of programs that require parents to sign away their children’s IDEA rights is a dangerous indication of how her appointment would affect my family and the families of the other 6.5 million students receiving special education services throughout the US.

Special education IS expensive and difficult. Accommodating Jameston DOES place a disproportionate strain on the budgets, staff, and infrastructure of the schools he attends. It costs money. It takes time. It’s difficult.

But it’s worth it.

Without federal policies like the IDEA, people like Jameston lose. Privatization strategies like those Ms. DeVos supports often allow students like my son to fall through the cracks because it’s more profitable to spend that money on programs that increase test scores, boost ratings, and provide more measurable results.

Please. Jameston and millions of students like him are relying on you to defend their right to a free and appropriate public education.

I respectfully implore you to vote against her appointment.

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