Betsy DeVos is preparing to undo another pernicious Obama school policy.
The Trump administration spent much of its first year blocking or delaying its predecessor’s regulations. Thankfully, that work continues apace in year two. Any day now, look for the Education Department to halt implementation of an Obama -era rule on racial disparities in special education that was set to take full effect in July.
Black students are more likely than white students to be placed in special-education classes, and the Obama administration attributed the disparity (along with nearly every black-white gap) to racial bias. Thus in late 2016, weeks before leaving office, Obama officials issued a rule that threatened school districts with financial penalties if they didn’t achieve racial balance in special ed.
The rule, which would effectively impose racial quotas, is likely unconstitutional. Moreover, academic research shows that racial bias is not the cause of disproportionate representation of black pupils in special ed. Anyone who cares about the prospects of minority youngsters should welcome the Trump administration’s decision to put the rule on hold.
A 2015 study by scholars at UC Irvine and Penn State University found that black children are more likely than white children to be born prematurely and have high levels of lead in their blood, among other factors that often result in learning disabilities and speech impairments. When otherwise similar groups of black and white adolescents were compared, the data didn’t show that black students were more likely to be placed in special education classes. In fact, it showed the opposite: “The real problem is that black children are underrepresented in special-education classes when compared with white children with similar levels of academic achievement, behavior and family economic resources,” two of the authors, Paul Morgan and George Farkas, wrote in an op-ed.
Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator.