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.

Department of Education Names Commissioner of National Center for Special Education Research

The US Department of Education named Joan McLaughlin to a six-year term as Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education research (NCSER).  NCSER has a $50 million research portfolio that supports six research and development centers that focus on early childhood, high school students with serious behavior disorders or with autism spectrum disorders, math instruction, reading instruction for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, and assessment and accountability.

The Department of Education Names Dr. Libby Doggett as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning

The U.S. Department of Education named Dr. Libby Doggett as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning. Dr. Doggett will lead the Department’s effort to implement President Obama’s plan to make high-quality, full-day preschool services available to all 4-year-olds from low- to moderate-income families. She has a doctorate in early childhood special education from the University of Texas and has extensive experience in the field of early learning. She was formerly an executive director of The Arc of Texas.

Department of Education Update Regarding Development of a New State Monitoring System

The Department of Education announced that it will spend this year working closely with stakeholders to develop a new state monitoring system to determine how well students with disabilities are doing in school.  In the past, the annual reviews have focused on procedural requirements rather than student outcomes.  The visits scheduled for the 2012-13 school year will not be carried out; however, the department will review states’ annual performance reports.

Major Cuts to Disability programs approved by the House; Senate to work on its spending bill next week

On Saturday, the House of Representatives completed work on a FY 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR) that would make landmark cuts to domestic discretionary funding in the remainder of this fiscal year.  The cuts to programs were over $100 billion when compared to what President Obama requested for FY 2011.  Over 580 amendments were offered during the debate on the bill, with 67 passing that cut an additional $620 million. The overwhelming majority of the cuts were to domestic programs though $19 billion did come from security-related cuts.  The Senate is expected to work on a CR when they return from the President’s day recess the week of February 28. The Senate Democratic leadership has signaled an unwillingness to pursue the level of cuts in the House bill but it is unclear what the strategy will be.

While reducing the deficit is important to all Americans, The Arc and UCP will continue work diligently to ensure that this is not done at the expense of the most vulnerable, underserved, and unserved segment of our society.  We will be calling on our grassroots in the coming weeks to help preserve the most essential programs for people with disabilities.

Below are some examples of the program cuts in the House bill:

Health Care:  Nine amendments were accepted aimed at blocking implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), prohibiting funds to pay the salary of employees or contractors working on implementation and prohibiting the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing the individual responsibility section of the ACA.

Employment:  The House bill eliminates the State Supported Employment grant program and the Projects with Industry grant program.  Also the overall amount of funding to states for employment and training was cut by nearly $1.4 billion.

Housing: Housing for Persons with Disabilities would be cut by 70%.  The Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program budget would be cut from the FY 2010 level of $300 million to $90 million for FY 2011.

Special Education: The House bill would cut funding to states for special education by $557 million.  Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers introduced an amendment which passed by a vote of 249 to 179.  The amendment would restore the $557 million to special education by taking that amount from regular education.  Several advocacy groups, including the Council for Exceptional Children, had opposed the amendment stating that it “robbed Peter to pay Paul.”

Social Security:  The Administration’s “Limitation on Administrative Expenses,” the amount the agency spends on salaries and other costs to administer its programs, would be funded at $10.675 billion.  This is $1.7 billion less than the President’s request for FY 2011 and will result in increased backlogs in disability cases.  In anticipation of the possibility of this reduced spending level, SSA has imposed a hiring freeze and is planning for the possibility of furloughs.

Transportation:  The biggest cut to transportation was to the high speed rail program, a priority of the Obama Administration.  Amtrak was cut an additional $151 million.

Special Olympics: All funding would be eliminated.