Hillary Clinton began her career with the Children’s Defense Fund in part working on pioneering efforts to create national protections for students with disabilities. She was on the Democratic side during the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, during which Republicans tried to gut the statute that protects students with disabilities, especially its enforcement provisions. She attempted to address the concerns of teachers with disruptive students by ensuring funding for positive behavior interventions; while her acceptance of reduced disciplinary protections disappointed many of us, the outcome during the 2004 reauthorization could have been far worse. Tim Kaine worked for 17 years as a civil rights lawyer, in part representing people with disabilities who were denied access to housing. Both Clinton and Kaine know that good intentions are not enough: laws and public and private enforcement are necessary as well.
Trump has criticized Clinton’s proposal to increase federal funding for special education services, calling it part of a “spending spree.” [source] The Republican platform indicates that Congress, in which they currently control both houses, will soon reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. That is frightening, since in 2004 Republicans reduced student and parent protections. Among other things, they tried to remove the attorneys’ fees provisions which make the Act enforceable by parents of modest and no means. Not only is the ability of families to enforce the law important, but so is federal educational funding. Instead of pledging to honor the commitment to fully fund IDEIA, Trump has proposed to cut domestic spending drastically. [source] Federal oversight of compliance with IDEIA is also critical, yet Trump has proposed eliminating or drastically downsizing the Department of Education. He wants educational decisions made at the local and state level, which has often been disastrous for students with disabilities.