On May 22, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act (S.1585). This bill would require institutions of higher education to accept a student’s individualized education plan (IEP), 504 plan, or prior evaluation as sufficient proof of disability. Additionally, it requires institutions to provide transparent information regarding the process of determining eligibility for disability services and to disseminate the information in an accessible format. It also requires institutions to report information on the number of students with disabilities served, their outcomes, and the accommodations provided. The Arc supports this legislation.
May 17, 2019 marked the 65th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court Case that held public school segregation based on race was unconstitutional. In light of this anniversary, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a blog post discussing three recent reports on disparities that still exist in education. The first report noted the rise in the percentage of schools where 75% or more of the students were black or Hispanic and eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The second report discusses the disproportionate use of discipline against black students, boys, and students with disabilities. The third report discusses the limited course offerings at high-poverty schools.
On April 18, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) released a report titled “Protecting Students’ Civil Rights: The Federal Role in School Discipline.” The report discusses the negative impacts of zero-tolerance policies and discrimination in discipline. It notes guidance documents and regulations the Trump administration has targeted for elimination, such as the discipline guidance and the significant disproportionality rule. Additionally, the report discusses strategies to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, such as teaching social-emotional skills.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report documenting the differences between states in rates of eligibility for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Eligibility for services for children ages 6 through 21 varied from 6.4% to 15.1%. The report attributed this variation to the flexibility provided to states by law. IDEA requires states to create their own policies and procedures for identifying children eligible for services. Additionally, the law allows states to adopt criteria for disability classification that are broader than the federal minimum. The report also notes that some school districts have difficulty identifying English language learners with disabilities due to a lack of staff who are fluent in the student’s native language.
Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Susie Lee (D-NV), along with 11 original Senate co-sponsors and 16 original House co-sponsors, introduced the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act (S.1172/H.R.2315). This bill gradually increases funding for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and special education (Part B, the State Grant Program) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) until both are funded at authorization levels. Title I of the ESEA provides funding to school districts with high percentages of low income children. The Arc supports the Keep Our PACT Act.
On April 10, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing titled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education.” The sole witness was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Secretary DeVos faced numerous questions related to proposed program cuts; the administration’s Freedom scholarship tax credit proposal, which could be used for private schools that do not have to adhere to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; loan servicing for post-secondary education; the decision to delay the significant disproportionality rule on disability identification, placement, and discipline by race/ethnicity; among other controversial issues. Visit the Committee website to review opening statements and testimony and view archived video of the hearing.
On April 10, the Department of Education released a guidance document titled “Parent and Educator Guide to School Climate Resources.” This document provides strategies schools can use to improve school climate, reduce disciplinary issues, and make schools safer. The document recommends the use of school-wide positive behavior support programs.
On March 26, Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), John Katko (R-NY), Joe Neguse (D-CO), David McKinley (R-WV), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and Glen Thompson (R-PA) introduced the IDEA Full Funding Act (S.866/H.R.1878). This bipartisan bill would increase spending over the next decade to bring the federal share of funding for special education up to 40 percent, the amount committed when the law was first enacted in 1975. The federal government currently covers only 14 percent of these costs. The Arc supports this legislation.
On March 7, Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act of 2019 (S.695). This bill would create “Military Education Savings Accounts” that parents serving in the military could use for private school or other education expenses for their children. The Arc opposes this bill because it directs public funds to private schools that are not required to follow the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the accountability provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act. View The Arc’s position statement on education, including school choice.
On March 7, a Federal District Court judge overturned the Education Department’s (ED) decision to delay implementation of the 2016 significant disproportionality rule because it was “arbitrary and capricious” and the department “failed to provide a reasoned explanation” for its decision. The requirement for states and school districts to collect and report data on significant disproportionality, and take certain action if it is found, was added to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004. However, since that time, few states and school districts have reported any such significant disproportionality. In response to this problem, documented in a 2013 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of Education issued regulations in 2016 to require a standard methodology to calculate significant disproportionality on the basis of race in identification, placement, and discipline. In 2018, the ED announced it would delay implementation of the rule. The Arc is pleased with the court ruling, which will ensure states and school districts move forward with implementation.