Two weeks ago, President and CEO Mimi Corcoran of the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) urged Senators to question Supreme Court Nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, on his positions on issues impacting students and people with disabilities. Last week, Senators finally got their chance to illicit clarification on his beliefs in an open forum during his nomination hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Most of the four-day long hearing centered on other issues like guns, executive authority, and national security. While Judge Kavanaugh was not asked about his stances on disability issues or public education, there were two strong advocates in the room who expressed concerns about his previous ruling regarding self-determination for people with disabilities and his support for private school vouchers.
Elizabeth Weintraub, Advocacy Specialist for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, stated in her testimony that “there’s a saying that we hold very dear to our heart and that’s ‘Nothing about us without us.’ This means that any decision that affects us should include us. We expect to be part of the conversation, even to lead the conversation. Self-determination is a basic human right for all people with disabilities. People with intellectual disabilities have opinions and preferences and they should be recognized.”
Following Weintraub’s testimony, Oklahoma City Public School Teacher, Melissa Smith, testified that “vouchers do nothing to help student achievement, but do everything to undermine the public schools that 90 percent of children in this nation attend. Siphoning more funding away from public education will destroy public schools.”
Based on his record alone, NCLD has concerns about Judge Kavanaugh’s willingness to uphold and preserve the civil rights that exist under the law for individuals with disabilities, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We also remain concerned about his staunch support of private school voucher programs that can and often do eliminate a child’s rights under IDEA. While this hearing did not offer the clarity or insight we expected to gain on Judge Kavanaugh’s positions, NCLD will continue protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and ensure that they have a say in their own lives, such as where they live, work, and go to school. We urge Senators to carefully consider Judge Kavanaugh’s record on these issues and the testimony of Ms. Weintraub and Ms. Smith when they vote on his nomination to the Supreme Court later this month.
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