U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will not recommend that Congress waive the main requirements of three federal education laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA. The federal law ensures that children with disabilities have a right to a free, appropriate public education whenever and wherever schools are operating.

When Congress passed the coronavirus relief package, known as the CARES act, they included a provision that allowed the Secretary to request waivers to parts of the special education law during the pandemic. The concern was that holding strictly to IDEA and other laws could hinder schools in the urgency to move schooling from the classroom setting to online and home-based approaches.

The waiver provision, however, made disability advocates nervous. “We’re talking about waiving a civil right for our most vulnerable people in our society, children who don’t vote, who have no voice, who are relying on their parents to advocate for them,” Stephanie Langer, a Florida civil rights attorney who focuses on education and disability, told NPR in March.

But the Education Department came to the conclusions that in general, big changes weren’t needed. “While the Department has provided extensive flexibility to help schools transition,” Devos said in a statement, “there is no reason for Congress to waive any provision designed to keep students learning.”

While the bulk of the IDEA remains unchanged, Devos did issue limited waivers to a few sections of the law, including one that will extend the timeline schools have to offer services. The provision that bans discrimination based on disability status, will go untouched.

(more at npr.org)