On November 15, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released two reports on school choice. The first report relates to charter schools. This report highlights many concerns with the charter school system, including the disproportionately low percentage of enrollees who have disabilities, frequent non-compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), harsh codes of conduct, increased racial segregation, and the negative impact on students remaining in the traditional public school system. The report makes several recommendations to policy-makers to remedy these concerns. The second report relates to private school choice. This report recommends that schools receiving voucher funds be required to follow the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and accountability requirements that currently apply to public schools.
On November 14, Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Robert Scott (D-VA), and 34 other co-sponsors introduced the Keeping All Student Safe Act (H.R. 7124). A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Patty Murray (D-WA). These bills would prohibit physical restraint that is life-threatening or restricts breathing, mechanical restraint, chemical restraint, and seclusion in schools that receive federal funding. Physical restraint would only be allowed when a student’s behavior poses an imminent danger to self or others and less restrictive interventions would be ineffective. The bills require states to ensure schools have personnel trained to safely restrain students in those circumstances. Additionally, they prohibit individualized education programs or behavior intervention plans from including provisions allowing the use of restraint or seclusion. The Arc strongly supports this legislation and looks forward to working with sponsors in further refining the bill in the 116th Congress.
The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion (APRAIS) sponsored a Congressional Briefing to mark the introduction of the bills. Speakers included Representative Don Beyer (D-VA); Annie Acosta, Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy, The Arc; Denise Marshall, Executive Director, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates; Amanda Lowe, Senior Policy Analyst, National Disability Rights Network; Dr. Joe Ryan, Stanzione Distinguished Professor of special education, Clemson University; Kimberly Sanders, President, Ukeru Systems; and Alex Campbell, a student and self-advocate who was subjected to restraint and seclusion. Learn more at stophurtingkids.com.
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%.
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.
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.
The Learning Policy Institute has released a report titled “Making ESSA’s Equity Promise Real: State Strategies to Close the Opportunity Gap” on the use of suspension rates, school climate, chronic absenteeism, extended-year graduation rate, and access to a college-and career-ready curricula in their accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Students with disabilities face disparities on all five of these measures. Find out if your state is using these factors in its accountability system with these interactive maps.
The U.S. Department of Education found that only twenty-one states deserved the “meets requirements” designation for the 2016-2017 school year. Twenty-eight states were placed into the “needs assistance” category. Michigan and the District of Columbia were placed in the “needs intervention” 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.
On July 26, Representative Bobby Scott and sixteen co-sponsors introduced the Aim Higher Act (H.R. 6543) to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Among many other things, the bill would require colleges to accept formal disability documentation from high school so the students no longer must re-prove their disability to receive accommodations in college. The bill would reauthorize the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities and teacher preparation programs that train teachers to educate diverse learners. The Aim Higher Act is the alternative to the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508) that passed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in February. See the statement from the CCD Education Task Force here.
Last week, the House and Senate passed, and the President signed, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353) which reauthorizes federal career and technical education (CTE) programs. The law includes several disability community priorities such as including individuals with disabilities among the stakeholders who must be consulted in the development of the state plan; creating a new set aside for the recruitment of individuals with disabilities to CTE programs that lead to high-wage in-demand careers; including provisions around public reporting on student subgroups and special population performance by program of study; and expanding access and requirements for teacher professional development in universal design for learning and other research-based teaching methods. See the statement from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Education Task Force here.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education has issued a report grading states on their commitment to public education. The report assesses privatization programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia with the goal of not only highlighting the benefits of a public school education, but comparing the accountability, transparency and civil rights protections offered students in the public school setting versus the private school setting. States are rated on the extent to which they have instituted policies and practices that lead toward fewer democratic opportunities and more privatization, as well as the guardrails they have (or have not) put into place to protect the rights of students, communities, and taxpayers. The report also recommends improving public schools by reducing class sizes, improving teacher training and recruitment, supporting pre-K education, and increasing parental involvement. See the report here.