Education – CAP Releases Report on For-Profit Virtual Charter Schools

The Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report titled “Profit Before Kids”. The report detailed the low performance of for-profit virtual charter schools as well as their financial practices. The report recommends a ban on for-profit companies from operating virtual charter schools, increased regulation of non-profit virtual charter schools, and a ban on compensation incentives for enrollment of all public schools, similar to the ban that currently applies to higher education institutions. The percentage of students with disabilities in the schools studied varied considerably, from 0 to 32%.

Social Security – SSA Announces Cost of Living Increases for 2019

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in 2019. The Social Security Act provides for annual COLA increases based on inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Because the CPI-W rose modestly over the last year, the 2019 COLA will increase benefits modestly. According to SSA, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker will increase by $39, from $1,422 in 2018 to $1,461 in 2019. The average monthly benefit for a Social Security disabled worker beneficiary will increase by $34, from $1,222 in 2018 to $1,234 in 2019. In addition, the SSI Federal Payment Standard will increase from $750 per month in 2018 to $771 per month in 2019. Important work incentive thresholds for Social Security and SSI beneficiaries with disabilities will also increase, including the Substantial Gainful Activity level and the Trial Work Period earnings level. View SSA’s fact sheet for more details on the 2019 Social Security COLA.

Education – President Appoints OSEP Director

On October 11, President Trump has appointed Laurie VanderPloeg as Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Ms. VanderPloeg currently serves as president of the Council for Exceptional Children. Additionally, she has experience as a district special education administrator in Michigan. OSEP is the office within the Department of Education charged with administering the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Immigration/Rights – DHS Issues Proposed Rule Limiting Immigration

On October 10, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a proposed rule that will greatly expand the what is known as the “public charge” test. The public charge test allows for denying entry to or permanent residency in the United States based upon the likelihood an individual will need government benefits. Currently, the only benefits considered are cash benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), comparable state and local programs, and institutional long-term care (including through Medicaid). Under the proposed rule, an individual could be considered a public charge for using or applying for a broader range of benefits including most Medicaid programs, housing assistance, or food assistance. The Arc opposes the proposed rule because it will result in discrimination against legal immigrants with disabilities. Read The Arc’s full statement here.

Education – Report on State ESSA Plans and Students with Disabilities Released

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) has released a report titled “Assessing ESSA: Missed Opportunities for Students with Disabilities”. The report rates states on whether their accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) include students with disabilities, whether they are developing support systems to help struggling schools meet the needs of students with disabilities, and whether the plan meaningfully includes and discusses the needs of students with disabilities. The report shows that most states had low long-term goals for students with disabilities. For example, New York’s long-term graduation rate goal for students with disabilities is 63% and New Mexico aims only for a 50% proficiency rate in mathematics and English language arts for students with disabilities. Read the report here.

Miscellaneous – New AoD Commissioner Appointed

Julie Hocker became the new Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities (AoD) within the Administration on Community Living (ACL) on October 1. Ms. Hocker joins ACL from the Charles Koch Foundation, where she served as a senior manager since 2016. In that role, she led several key initiatives to improve the foundation’s operations, including development of an integrated technology and data solution for fundraising, grantmaking and expenditures; redesigning process to improve investment tracking and enable better analysis of effectiveness; and creation and implementation of risk-management processes. Read more here.

Transportation – Senate Approves FAA Reauthorization

On October 3, the Senate approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 by a vote of 93-6. This bill includes numerous provisions that benefit people with disabilities, including required training for Transportation Security Administration officers on working with passengers with disabilities, increased civil penalties for bodily harm to a passenger with a disability or damage to wheelchairs or other mobility aids, a new Advisory Committee on Air Travel Needs of Passengers with Disabilities, and a study of potential in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems that will allow passengers to remain in their wheelchairs during flight. The bill now heads to the President’s desk.

Social Security – House Committee Holds Hearing on SSA’s Information Technology

On September 27, the House Ways and Means Committee Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing on the “State of Social Security’s Information Technology.” Witnesses were Rajive Mathur, Deputy Commissioner of Systems and Chief Information Officer, Social Security Administration; Gale Stallworth Stone, Acting Inspector General, Social Security Administration; and Carol C. Harris, Director, Information Technology Management Issues, Government Accountability Office. Visit the Committee web site to review testimony and archived video.