Education/Tax Policy – Public Funds for Public Schools Act Introduced

On November 7, Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Danny K. Davis (D-IL) introduced the Public Funds for Public Schools Act of 2017 (H.R. 4269). This bill addresses a problem that currently exists with tuition tax credits (TTCs) in select states. In 18 states, the TTCs are available to individuals who contribute to scholarship granting organizations or school voucher nonprofits. In 7 of these states (AL, AZ, FL, GA, MT, NV, and SC,) this tax credit is dollar for dollar. This means that in addition to receiving a full refund from their state, upper-income donors qualify for a federal tax deduction on the same donation, which allows them to turn a profit on their contributions. Each year, wealthy donors use TTCs to divert an estimated $1 billion in taxpayer funding to private and often unaccountable schools. The Arc supports this legislation as it disallows profiteering from donations to support private schools, which are not obligated to adhere to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Education – Department of Education Rescinds Additional Non-Regulatory Guidance Documents

On October 27, the Department of Education announced the “withdrawal of nearly 600 out-of-date pieces of sub-regulatory guidance on its books” to date. “Each item has been either superseded by current law or is no longer in effect. Removing these out-of-date materials will make it easier for schools, educators, parents and the public to understand what guidance is still in effect.” A very preliminary review of rescinded documents indicates that the documents are outdated, however, disability advocates will continue to review the rescinded documents.

This announcement follows the Oct. 19 announcement of the rescission of 72 guidance documents under the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) that were rescinded due to being “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective” with no explanation provided. The Department followed up a few days later with a document that included brief justifications. A preliminary review also indicates that these rescissions appear to be valid. The Department’s Regulatory Reform Task Force’s full report and a list of out-of-date sub-regulatory guidance by office is available here.

Education – Department of Education Rescinds Numerous IDEA Guidance Documents

On October 20, the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) announced in a newsletter that guidance documents have been rescinded.  “At this time, OSERS has a total of 72 guidance documents that have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective-63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).”  This announcement follows President Trump’s Executive Order 13777, intended “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens” on the American people.  The Executive Order issued in February listed six criteria for making determinations on guidances, including those that “eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation” and “impose costs that exceed benefits.”  The October 20 announcement only refers to documents which meet one of the six criteria, leaving open the door for further rescissions.  The Arc and education coalition partners are reviewing the rescinded documents to determine the potential impact on students with disabilities and their families.  A preliminary review indicates that the rescinded documents clarify existing regulations pertaining the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act, such as Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Placed by Their Parents at Private Schools.  The Arc is concerned about the lack of transparency in this process as no justifications were provided and no additional information is available on the Department’s website.  See the list of rescinded documents here.

Education – Child Care for Working Families Act introduced in Senate

On September 14, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and 26 original co-sponsors introduced S. 1806, the Child Care for working Families Act. The Arc supports this bill that would, among many other things, support more inclusive, high-quality early learning and child care for children with disabilities, and infants and toddlers with disabilities, including by increasing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The bill was developed to address the current crisis in affordable and inclusive early learning and child care.

Education – Report Shows Most States are Not Meeting IDEA Obligations

The U.S. Department of Education found that only 22 states deserved the “meets requirements” designation for the 2015-2016 school year. All other states were placed into the “needs assistance” category. The findings come from an annual mandatory assessment of state compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The ratings are based on how well states meet their obligations to serve students with disabilities ages 3 to 21.

Education/Appropriations – House Appropriators Reject School Choice Initiatives

The House Appropriations Committee did not fund two Trump Administration education priorities. In the Administration’s FY 2018 Budget, the President requested $1 billion for “portability” of funds to public school of choice and $250 million for research and private school scholarships for low-income families. However, the Appropriations Committee report noted that these programs have not been authorized. This means that Congress would need to enact legislation to allow public education dollars to be used for both public school portability and private school choice efforts.

Education – IDEA Full Funding Act Introduced in House

Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV), Timothy Walz (D-MN), David Reichert (R-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and John Katko (R-NY) introduced the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Full Funding Act (H.R. 2902). 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 to when the law was first enacted in 1975. Currently the federal government currently covers 15.7 percent of these costs. The Arc supports this legislation.

Education – Department of Education Issues Final Rule Eliminating the R-Word from Its Regulations

The Department of Education released its final rule eliminating the r-word from its regulations and replacing it with “intellectual disability” or “intellectual disabilities.” This rule does not make any change to the meaning of the regulations, but rather brings them in line with Rosa’s Law, the 2010 law which eliminated the term from all statutes under the jurisdiction of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Education – Bill to Improve Higher Education for Students with Disabilities Introduced in the House

On July 12, Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and eight co-sponsors introduced H.R. 3199, the Improving Access to Higher Education Act. This bill would amend the Higher Education Act to improve college access and completion for students with disabilities. The Arc supports this comprehensive legislation that would provide students and institutions with improved training, greater resources, and expanded services, and includes improvements to the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities.

Education – Senator Murray Sends Memo and Keynotes Event on School Privatization Policies

On March 22, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, sent a memo to Senate colleagues on the repercussions of school privatization efforts. The 20-page memo includes select stories on school privatization policies and provides an overview of the main types of such policies (vouchers, direct tax credits or deductions, tax credit vouchers, and education savings accounts) and how these policies fall short in three areas: 1) accountability and transparency, 2) challenges in rural areas, and 3) protecting students’ rights. On the same day, Senator Murray keynoted an event at the Center for American Progress entitled, “Federal Voucher Programs: Implications for Public Schools and Vulnerable Students.” Watch the archived webcast of the event here.