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.
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.
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 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.
A study soon to be published in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities shows that students with intellectual disability are still rarely educated with students without disabilities. The study examined placement trends for students with intellectual disability between ages 6 and 21 between 1976 and 2014. Over this time period, between 55 and 73 percent of students with intellectual disability were in segregated settings for all or most of the day. In 2014, only 17 percent of students with intellectual disability spent 80 percent or more of the school day in the general education classroom. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires students with disabilities be educated alongside students without disabilities to the “maximum extent appropriate.” Placement in a less inclusive setting should occur only when “the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”
The National Council on Disability (NCD) released a five-part report series on implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The last major report on IDEA Implementation from NCD was released in 2002, prior to the 2004 reauthorization. The five parts of the series are:
- Broken Promises: The Underfunding of IDEA
- English Learners and Students from Low-Income Families
- Federal Monitoring and Enforcement of IDEA Compliance
- Every Student Succeeds Act and Students with Disabilities
- The Segregation of Students with Disabilities
NCD is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities.
Last week, the House and Senate advanced the most important spending bills for disability programs – Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED). Both would maintain overall sequestration funding levels and include a number of substantial cuts to programs, earning the promise of a veto by President Obama.
L-HHS-ED – Senate – The Senate bill passed the Appropriations Committee along party lines on June 25. The bill’s discretionary funding level is $3.6 billion below the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 enacted level and includes numerous policy riders that would limit the activities of federal agencies. Several federal agencies would receive significant cuts and a small number would receive increases. Notable examples include:
- LABOR: Includes a 4% cut for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs.
- HHS: Includes a 28% cut for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) program management that would restrict the agency’s ability to operate the Affordable Care Act programs, Medicare, and Medicaid.
- EDUCATION: Includes a $1.1 billion cut for the Department. However, the IDEA state grant program would receive a nearly 1% increase.
L-HHS – House – The House bill passed the full Appropriations Committee along party lines on June 24 and would provide discretionary funding at $3.7 billion below the FY 2015 level. The bill also includes numerous policy riders. The House bill included spending cuts and select increases similar to those in the Senate bill:
- LABOR: Includes a 2% cut for the Employment and Training Administration that helps to implement Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs.
- HHS: Includes a $344 million cut for CMS.
- EDUCATION: Includes a cut of $2.8 billion to the Department of Education. However, this includes an increase of $12 billion (4.3%) for IDEA grants to states.
See the funding levels for specific disability related programs.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) approved its Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill on an 8-4 party line vote. Funding for these agencies is reduced by 2.5% overall with cuts mostly targeted on the Affordable Care Act, family planning, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Disability-related programs were largely level funded, and one received a sizable increase – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants to states. The IDEA state grant would receive an increase of 4.3% over the 2015 funding level, bringing the federal share of the additional cost of providing special education from 16% to 17%. A detailed funding chart will be provided when more detailed line item funding is made available by the committee. The full House Appropriations Committee markup is scheduled for tomorrow and the Senate L-HHS-ED Subcommittee will take up their bill later this week.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 2789, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Full Funding Act, on September 10. This bill would increase spending over the next decade to bring the federal share of funding for special education up to 40%, the amount promised when the law was first enacted in 1975. To date, the federal government has never covered more than 16% of these costs per year. The increased funding would be paid for through increased taxes on individuals earning over $1 million per year. The House version of the bill, HR 4136, was introduced in June by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Learn more at help.senate.gov.
On September 10, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S.2790, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Fairness Restoration Act. This legislation would ensure parents who successfully challenge a school district under IDEA can recoup costs for psychologists, behavior specialists, physicians and other experts they engage in order to bring their case. Currently, families can challenge schools if they do not believe that their child is being provided a free and appropriate education (FAPE) under the law. While attorney’s fees can be recovered by whichever party prevails, a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision determined that costs for expert witnesses cannot. The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act would remedy this problem by overriding the Supreme Court’s decision and restoring IDEA’s original intent, allowing prevailing parents to recover expert fees just like prevailing plaintiffs in the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, and other civil rights laws.