Education – President Appoints OSEP Director

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.

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.

Results Driven Accountability Effort – Question Five

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the Department of Education has posted a fifth question about the Results Driven Accountability Effort. The effort is an attempt to focus OSEP’s monitoring of school systems more on outcomes for students with disabilities. OSEP developed a core set of principles to guide its work. Question 5 concerns those principles. OSEP will accept comments on question 5 until November 9, 2012 through its website.

The Department of Education awards $24 million in Grants to Improve Training Systems to Help Children with Disabilities

The US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), awarded a total of $24 million in State Personnel Development Grants to 22 states to improve teacher training for students with disabilities.  States must partner with at least one higher education institution and a Parent Training and Information Center or a Community Parent Resource Center.  States that received grants include Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Department of Education launches new website to solicit input into how it monitors states’ compliance with provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), would like to change the way it monitors states’ compliance with provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Currently, the system measures dropout rates, suspension and expulsion rates, percent of time spent in the general education classroom, parental involvement and other indicators.  OSEP would like to move to a monitoring system that looks at student outcomes.   OSEP has created a website where it has posed a series of questions and wants input from stakeholders.  Individuals may share their ideas for how to ensure that students with disabilities do well in school.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Maintenance of Effort

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the Department of Education issued informal guidance to local schools explaining that they can reduce their local spending on special education services. OSEP’s guidance was triggered by a request from the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and concerned a local school district that had not been able to provide the same level of funding for special education in 2011 as it had in 2010. The district was fined for its failure but, according to OSEP, could reduce its 2012 level of special education funding to the 2011 reduced level (when it failed to meet the 2010 level of spending) rather than the 2010 level. Legal advocacy organizations have said they believe OSEP is mistaken and have asked for reconsideration of OSEP’s position. Under the IDEA, States and local school districts are required to keep their spending levels the same from year to year, a provision known as maintenance of effort (MOE). Several states have asked for a waiver from the MOE requirement due to budgetary constraints (Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, and West Virginia).