On January 24, Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced a bill to reauthorize the Scholarship for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, which provides private school vouchers for low-income students in the District of Columbia. The Arc opposes the program because schools participating in the program are not required to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the accountability provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). See The Arc’s position statement on education, including school choice.
On January 17, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a new initiative to address the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities. The initiative will include compliance reviews, data collection improvements, and technical assistance. The Arc welcomes this new initiative and hopes for meaningful progress in reducing the use of restraint and seclusion, including passage of the Keeping All Students Safe Act. Read The Arc’s statement.
Two bills were introduced on January 3 to fund private school education at the federal level. The first, S.5, provides a federal tax credit for private school tuition. The second, H.R. 69, allows parents to take federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I funding to a public or private school of their choice. The Arc opposes these bills as they do not maintain the accountability and civil rights protections that students with disabilities have in public schools. See The Arc’s position statement on education, including school choice.
On December 21, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it had rescinded a package of guidance documents related to school discipline. The guidance detailed how, among other things, educators should prevent discipline from being administered in a way that disproportionately impacts minority students and those with disabilities. The announcement follows the December 18, 2018, release of the Federal Commission on School Safety report, which recommended rescission of the guidance. Education Secretary DeVos stated that the guidance put too much emphasis on statistics, adding that the rescission “makes it clear that discipline is a matter on which classroom teachers and local school leaders deserve and need autonomy.” The Arc strongly opposes the rescission of the package of documents that provide helpful guidance for schools, but emphasizes that the obligations for schools under existing civil rights and education laws remain in effect.
Education: 40th Annual Report to Congress on IDEA Implementation Released
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that the Department of Education report annually on the progress made toward the provision of a free appropriate public education to all children with disabilities and the provision of early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities. The report focuses on the children and students with disabilities being served under IDEA, Parts C or B, nationally and at the state level. Notable findings in the 40th annual report, which covers the 2015-2016 school year, include:
- Almost one-half of students reported under the category of intellectual disability (49.4 percent) and students reported under the category of multiple disabilities (45.5 percent) were educated inside the regular class less than 40 percent of the day.
- From 2006-07 through 2015-16, the high school graduation percentage increased by at least 5 percentage points for each disability category except orthopedic impairment (4.3 percentage points), intellectual disability (4.6 percentage points), and multiple disabilities (2.2 percentage points).
The percentage of students with intellectual disability who graduated with a regular high school diploma decreased slightly from the previous year from 42.4 percent 42.2 percent.
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.