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An open letter to my Republican friends, regarding Betsy Devos

 About me:  I have been staring at these words for three hours and still can't figure out what to write!  Why is this so hard?!  It's about me for God's sake I know who I am!  My name is Rachel Ulriksen.  I'm a third grade teacher, girl ...

My special needs child deserves the same school options as yours

I need your help, and I’m not asking for me because I don’t deserve it, I’m asking for my son, Kevin, and all the children in this country like him.

I have heard a rousing chorus of late:  “For God's sake, give the man a chance he hasn’t even taken office yet!” 

My answer to that is this:  “You’re right.”  However, before he took office President Trump nominated a woman named Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education. I don’t care that she knows nothing about public education because neither she nor her children ever attended a public school. I don’t care that she’s a billionaire with no real sense of how the majority of us have to live and provide for our families. I don’t even care that she doesn’t understand the difference between proficiency and growth. I don’t presume that an outsider is incapable of repairing the public school system. In fact, I think that might just be what we need. But not her.

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I am an educator and cognizant that our current system is failing many families. It is deeply flawed and requires extensive repairs. I know a lot of people support what she’s proposing and I understand why. Something along the lines of:

“I support Betsy DeVos because she’s proposing freedom of choice in education and I want that. I want my child to attend the school operated by my church, to be educated in faith, but I can’t afford it. If Betsy Devos is confirmed religious education will become more affordable and readily available.”

Or: “My child is being bullied and the school has done nothing to help us. He’s scared to death to get on the bus in the morning and his grades have plummeted. It’s a little hard to concentrate while the other boys are whispering 'faggot' in your ear all day long. If Betsy DeVos is confirmed more charter schools will open in my area and I can finally free him from this abusive environment. Charter schools have the power to expel students for that kind of behavior, so if anyone starts that again, I can demand they be removed and it will happen. My son will be safe."

“The common core is idiotic. It makes little sense to me and zero sense to my daughter. She’s intelligent and talented with failing grades because she doesn’t fit in 'the box.' Soon I’ll have the freedom to enroll her in a charter school with and independent curriculum focused on project based learning and freedom of thought and she will thrive.”

More: We still alternate between acceptance and anger about our son with special needs

I get it. I sympathize with these situations but if these apply to you, I’m asking you to consider something:  I deserve the same choices, but under Betsy DeVos, I won’t have them because Kevin is disabled and therefore doesn’t count.

Many of you voted for Donald Trump because he is a successful businessman and feel this country should be run more like a business and believe it or not, I don’t disagree with you. I took one business course in college. I was hungover for most of it but one lecture I remember quite clearly. The instructor said, “In all business models there must include the outcome of collateral damage. It is inevitable. Collateral damage is something that must be anticipated and balanced against the ultimate success of the plan. It is a PART of the plan, not an unintended result of it.”  Translation: In the best business plans, someone has to get fucked for it to be successful. It’s just sound business, people.

Because he is a businessman Donald Trump has chosen for his Secretary of Education a businesswoman. It seems to me that she has a plan, and the collateral damage in the form of the special needs population.

Millions of dollars are spent on special education services every year to support a population, many of whom will never be contributing members of society. She may be a cold-hearted bitch but she’s smart. Gotta hand it to her, at least she’s honest.

If she is confirmed, millions of dollars will be siphoned from the public education system to fund charter schools and provide parents with vouchers to attend private schools, none of which will be under any obligation to provide special education services. In short, only the parents of “perfect” children will be offered school choice. The rest of us, we’re the collateral damage. In a few short years, if she has her way, our public schools will become a dumping ground for

  1. The children of parents who don’t give a shit
  2. The children who were expelled from their private/charter school
  3. The special needs population

You can support him without supporting this. You can support him without supporting her. That is what I am asking - no, begging - you to do.

Here’s something people like me don’t understand: You’re good people. You are kind, thoughtful, hard-working, patriotic, spiritual people who love your country and your fellow Americans. Even the ones like me who don’t deserve it. What I’m asking I ask not for myself but for Kevin, because I know you love him. You love that your children have him in class because you believe the exposure to him and all his classmates have made your children kinder, gentler, more understanding and accepting people.

In my soul, I know, more than you want school choice for yourself, you do not want an education system that excludes special needs children. You do not subscribe to the business model which accepts children as collateral damage.

More: Calling my son developmentally delayed pretends that he can 'catch up'

Donald Trump isn’t going to listen to me or anyone like me but he’ll listen to you. He needs you. He needs your good opinion. He is nothing without it. There is a petition at the bottom of this article. Please sign it. Please share it. The reduction of special needs children to second class citizens isn’t really your problem… only it is, because I know this isn’t the America you envisioned. The vote on her confirmation has been postponed. There’s still time. If more Republicans start signing it, President Trump will get the message. The message is this:

I voted for you. I stand with you but I do not stand with this decision. If you’re going to make school choice an option, make it an option for every American or I’m not interested. There can be no collateral damage in this part of your business plan, Mr. President. It’s millions of helpless Americans and I will not stand by and watch you sweep them away. You said in your speech, “Today is the day we give the country back to the people.”  You have to mean everyone because if you don’t, you don’t have my vote anymore.

Donald Trump is powerless without you. Betsy DeVos will never be confirmed without you. Please use that power as a force for good. Tell the man you voted for that the woman he nominated for Secretary of Education and her business plan, complete with collateral damage, is unacceptable.

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