The Trump administration has suffered yet another defeat at the hands of the courts as a federal judge ruled that the Department of Education led by billionaire Secretary Betsy Devos illegally delayed the implementation of a rule requiring states to eliminate racial disparities in special education programs that was enacted in the last days of the Obama administration.
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According to The New York Times, the rule was derived from the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and requires every state to determine which school districts maintain “significant disproportionality” in the treatment of minority students — including whether an inordinate number of those students are placed in special education classes, disciplined, or segregated into restricted classrooms.
Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia reversed Secretary DeVos’s decision to postpone the regulation by two years, calling the delay in implementation “arbitrary and capricious.” Now the regulation must be put in place immediately.
Officials in the Education Department have used the excuse that they needed to study the potential of the new rules to lead to unconstitutional “racial quotas” as their rationale for stalling the rollout of the regulations.
Educational equity and civil rights groups hailed the judge’s decision as a major victory against the educational policies of DeVos and the Trump administration, particularly since the ruling is now binding and states which have already been preparing for its implementation for over a year can quickly move to fulfill its requirements.
“Denise Marshall, executive director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, an advocacy organization that sued the department over the delay last year, said the decision, ‘assures states will be required to help their districts who have historically discriminated against children,’ by offering them services rather than suspensions,” according to The Times.
“The court has sided with the children whom the department had deemed unimportant through its actions,” Ms. Marshall said.
A spokesperson for the Education Department announced that in the wake of the ruling the department was reviewing its options.
“The secretary is concerned that the regulations will create an environment where children in need of special education and related services do not receive those services because of the color of their skin,” the department wrote.
Judge Chutkan disagreed with that assessment, determining that the Trump administration failed to demonstrate how the built-in safeguards against quotas that were contained in the Obama-era regulation would not be sufficient.
The judge also ruled that the department violated the law that governs the implementation of regulations by failing to provide a “reasoned explanation” for delaying the rule and failed to “account for the costs to children, their parents, and society.”
The Democratic chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Representative Robert Scott, said it was “troubling that the department delayed this critical rule without fulfilling its legal responsibility to provide a rational justification.”
“By forcing the Trump administration to implement the rule, the court’s ruling will put us back on a track toward reversing systemic racial discrimination in education,” Rep. Scott said in a statement.
Reversing systemic racial discrimination requires first recognizing that it is a problem that requires attention to begin with. Unfortunately, the extremist views of Secretary DeVos — who would rather see government funding go to private charter schools than do anything to improve the public educational system — preclude her from attempting to accomplish anything that would deviate from her right-wing agenda of the privatization of the educational system for the benefit of profit-making corporate cronies.
Luckily, the courts have yet to be so packed with Heritage Foundation-approved judges that DeVos can pursue her loathsome goals without being held accountable to the law.
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Original reporting by Erica L. Green at The New York Times.