Education – Report on States’ Commitment to Public Schools Released

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.

Health – CMS Distributing New Medicare Cards

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is in the process of distributing newly-designed Medicare cards. As part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, Congress mandated the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to guard against identity theft. The new cards contain a unique Medicare number for each individual. Cards are being mailed out between April 2018 and April 2019 on a schedule organized by state of residence. Learn more here.

Housing/Prevention – Bill Introduced to Address Lead-Based Paint in Federally-Funded Housing

On June 27, Representatives Don McEachin (D-VA) and John Faso (R-NY) introduced the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2018. This bill requires landlords of federally-funded housing units built before 1978 where children under the age of six will or may reside to conduct thorough risk assessments for lead-based paint hazards. In addition, landlords would be required to provide a means for families to relocate without penalty if a lead hazard is not controlled in 30 days, and to disclose the presence of lead hazards found in the home. The Arc supports this legislation to reduce exposure to lead which is known to contribute to learning and developmental disabilities.

Education – Education Department Delays IDEA Racial/Ethnic Disproportionality Rule

On June 29, the Department of Education announced that it would delay the regulations that were set to take effect this month to address racial/ethnic disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 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 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. In February, the Department solicited public comment on a proposed delay of these regulations as part of President Trump’ Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.” Nearly 400 comments were submitted in response with the vast majority opposing the delay, including comments from The Arc and from school districts already in the implementation process. The Department cited concerns about creating incentives for quotas and the need to study the issue further as justification for postponement. The Arc is very disappointed with the Department’s action and remains very concerned about the disproportionate numbers of minority students being over identified with certain types of disabilities, placed in segregated settings, and suspended and/or expelled.

Budget & Appropriations – House & Senate Advance FY 2019 Labor-HHS-Ed Spending Bill

On June 16, the Committee report was posted for the bill that was passed the day before by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED). The report includes line item funding levels for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and shows that most of The Arc’s priority programs would be level funded, with a few seeing increases and one being cut. On June 28, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the L-HHS-ED funding bill. Like the House version, this bill funds most of The Arc’s priority programs at FY 2018 levels, but does not contain any cuts. See the proposed funding levels by the House and Senate here.

Income Support – Senate Approves Bipartisan Farm Bill

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed by a vote of 86 to 11 its version of the “Farm Bill” (Manager’s Amendment to the House version of the Farm Bill, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018). The bill reauthorizes farm programs and policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is a bipartisan bill that did not include cuts and other provisions that were contained in the House of Representative version of the bill. The next step will be a negotiation between the House and Senate to find a compromise between the two approaches. More than 11 million people with disabilities rely on SNAP to help put food on the table. For more information about The Arc’s position see our statement.

Medicaid – Judge Blocks KY Medicaid Waiver Request

On June 29, a federal judge ruled that Kentucky’s proposed waiver, which included work requirements, monthly premiums, lockouts for non-payment, limits on retroactive eligibility and non-emergency medical transportation, and penalties for non-emergency use of emergency rooms was arbitrary and capricious. The judge ruled that the waiver was invalid because the Department of Health and Human Services did not take into account the primary objective of the Medicaid statute: “to furnish medical assistance.” However, the ruling did leave open the possibility that a waiver including work requirements might pass legal muster if its impact is more carefully considered. The Arc is very concerned about potential barriers to health care created by work requirements and other policies.

Miscellaneous News – White House Releases Major Government Restructuring Proposal

Last week, the White House announced a proposal to make major changes to the structure of government agencies. The most prominent change proposed is the merger of the Departments of Education and Labor. Additionally, the proposal moves non-commodity nutrition assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare. If legislation is introduced to make these changes, The Arc will assess the impact on programs critical to people with disabilities.

Housing – House Committee to Hold Hearing on Lead-Based Paint and Mold Remediation

On June 26, the House Committee on Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Government’s Approach to Lead-Based Paint and Mold Remediation in Public and Subsidized Housing.” The hearing will examine how HUD remedies unsafe living conditions. Exposure to high levels of lead increases the risk for learning and developmental disabilities in children. This hearing follows the release of two reports last week: the Government Accountability Office, “Lead Paint in Housing: HUD Should Strengthen Grant Processes, Compliance Monitoring, and Performance Assessment” and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of the Inspector General, “HUD Lacked Adequate Oversight of Lead-Based Paint Reporting and Remediation in Its Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Programs“. Visit the Committee web site for more information.