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July 22 2014

Should We Put the U.N. in Charge of Children with Disabilities?

Vicki E. Alger

Bob Dole thinks it’s high time the United States ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He argued in favor of it two years ago, but the measure didn’t pass Congress. Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the treaty, but it’s unlikely the full Senate will approve it. According to Politico:

The treaty, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was adopted in 2006 and signed by President Barack Obama in 2009. It’s modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act: The goal is to help guarantee that people with disabilities can access education, jobs, health care and other opportunities afforded to countries’ mainstream populations.

Dole, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, more than 700 disabilities, veterans and business groups and a bipartisan group of senators are pushing for the treaty to be brought up for a vote again before the August recess.

Mike Farris, president of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, is credited with helping defeat the treaty’s ratification two years ago and likely again this year. As Politico continues, "Farris mounted a public campaign against the treaty when the Senate took it up in 2012, fanning concerns … that it could infringe on the rights of parents whose children have disabilities...[and] threaten states’ rights..."

Earlier last month, Dole insisted that the U.N. treaty could be squared with the Constitution, federalism, and parental rights, according to the Hill:

“By adding the appropriate language on federalism in a reservation in the treaty, we can have a treaty that recognizes the rights of persons with disabilities, restores American leadership on disability rights, and maintains existing states’ rights and prerogatives under our Constitution,” Dole said.

I got déjà vu when I read those words. Why?

Because Bob Dole and many others made the same argument decades ago in support of the creation of a U.S. Department of Education. In fact, then Sen. Dole was an outspoken supporter of the 1978 version of the Department of Education law backed by President Carter and the National Education Association, the county's largest teachers union, which was even more expansive than the version passed the following year. Back then Dole and his fellow supporters promised that a national department of education would be no threat to parents’ or states’ rights. On the contrary, Dole and others insisted that we need a Department of Education just like other countries have to demonstrate American “leadership” in education. A Department of Education would streamline administration of services and improve student achievement.

Almost 40 years later general and special education students are certainly no better off because of this Department or its education programs (here and here). They certainly won’t be better off because a U.N. treaty says so —especially one signed by places with such horrible human rights track records as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo,  Djibouti (Somalia), Nigeria, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Want to help American students with special needs? State lawmakers should enact and expand parental choice programs. Currently, 21 such programs are helping students in 13 states to ensure children with special needs get the education and services that work best for them. Research from some of the largest programs shows that parental satisfactions levels are dramatically higher with their children’s chosen schools and student performance improves. Those results are far better than what we'd accomplish by signing another U.N. treaty.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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