LDA Legislative News

LDA Legislative News is our monthly newlsetter for legislative updates and news from Washington.

2020 Marks 100 Years for Vocational Rehabilitation

On June 2, 1920, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Smith-Fess Act, known as the National Civilian Rehabilitation Act.  Two earlier congressional Acts had established vocational rehabilitation programs targeted to helping disabled World War I veterans transition to civilian life.  The Civilian Rehabilitation Act of 1920 took those models and created a program for all Americans with disabilities, and this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of that action. The Civilian Rehabilitation Act established the federal/state rehab program and gave funds to states, with a 50-50, match mainly for vocational services, guidance, training, occupational adjustment, and placement services. … Read More »

New School Safety Website Launched

The U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services have joined together on a clearinghouse focused on school safety – www.SchoolSafety.gov.  The new website provides resources for K-12 school administrators, educators, families, and the law enforcement community to prepare for and deal with school safety and security. There are a number of resources available at SchoolSafety.gov.  These include an assessment tool to help schools evaluate their safety situation and an “action plan” template to help prioritize needed steps, as well as possible grant opportunities.  The site also has a secure feature for school personnel to share… Read More »

Education Department Addresses Privacy Concerns with Online Learning

With almost all schools in the country closed and many trying to provide virtual learning experiences, some questions have arisen about privacy of students and families.  Student privacy is covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) at the U.S. Department of Education has developed a fact sheet with resources to assist educators and families in navigating how to ensure privacy while providing virtual education.  SPPO has a number of resources on its website, including documents that address FERPA exceptions and a checklist to evaluate online educational apps. One question that… Read More »

Children’s Needs Addressed in Coronavirus Stimulus

In light of the current situation with COVID-19, Congress has been working overtime to address the needs of the country. The third stimulus package has been passed by both chambers of Congress and has been signed by the president. For LDA members, concerns have been raised about using this vehicle as a way to waive parts of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). While waiver language remains, hopefully any use of this secretarial authority will be limited and carefully crafted by the U.S. Department of Education. The CARES Act contains an Education Stabilization Fund that will provide $30.75 billion… Read More »

LDA Action Report: Together We Have a Powerful Voice

Over the past several weeks, LDA has been closely monitoring developments related to Congress’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the leading voice for individuals with learning disabilities, LDA knows the value of ensuring that your voice is heard and represented in Washington D.C. Over the past week,  LDA created a series of action alerts for members and LDA supporters to send to their U.S. Senators and Representatives. The first action alert was in opposition to a proposal that Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) offered giving the U.S. Secretary of Education authority to approve state waiver requests for any requirement of… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – January 2020

Fiscal Year 2021 Deliberations Begin With only a few exceptions over the past several years, Congress has extended the time needed to settle funding for the federal fiscal year.  One year’s deliberations seem to blend into conversations about the following year’s funding.  Extending the federal process can seriously impact school districts and other state and local agencies, as they try to set their own budgets for the coming year.  This process continued in Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 2020), with Congress finally deciding funding in December, three months after the start of the fiscal year.  Now discussions are already underway on… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – November 2019

LDA Joins Amicus on Supreme Court Case LDA has joined an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with 19 other national disability and civil rights organizations in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 2020.  The case revolves around a tax credit for contributions to “student scholarship organizations,” which in turn gave “scholarships” (vouchers) to families for use in private sectarian and non-sectarian schools.  LDA has a long history of keeping public funds for education in public schools, and this case could turn that principle… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – September 2019

Appeal Dismissed in COPAA v. DeVos On March 7, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled the  U.S. Department of Education engaged in “illegal delay of a legal regulation” related to significant disproportionality in special education.  That ruling was the result of a 2018 suit by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA) against the Department to enforce implementation of the 2016 regulation.  Now the Department of Justice has dismissed the Department of Education’s appeal of the March ruling, ending the Department’s attempts to delay or derail the regulation. After delaying the original Obama-era… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – August 2019

Congress Passes Bipartisan Budget Deal As the congressional August recess approached, LDA and other advocacy organizations waited to see if Congress would finalize a deal to raise the budget caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA).  The BCA caps were set to expire at the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 (school year 2021-22).  The result of the BCA caps remaining in effect for Fiscal Years (FY) 2020 and 2021 would have been deep cuts to current spending levels in all LDA’s priority areas – education, health, job training, and environmental issues.  Members of Congress… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – March 2019

President’s FY 2020 Budget Proposal Harsh on Education The first Monday in February is the regular date for the release of the president’s budget proposal for the upcoming federal fiscal year.  This year, due to the government shutdown in January, the release of the FY 2020 budget was delayed until March. FY 2020 begins on October 1, 2019.  The portion of the proposal that would fund the U.S. Department of Education for FY 2020 (School Year 2020-21) is much the same as last year’s proposal, a harsh budget that was soundly rejected by Congress for the current fiscal year. The… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – January 2019

116th Congress Brings New Champions As reported after the 2018 midterm elections, there are significant changes in the 116th Congress.  First, the majority shifted to the Democrats in the House of Representatives.  Second, the Republican majority in the Senate increased slightly.  However, more important to LDA, there are some new members with histories that make them possible champions for individuals with learning disabilities. The best way to influence and educate members of Congress – and local and state legislators – is to build good relationships early on and nurture those connections.  Readers will find below a list of new members… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – November 2018

What the Midterms Mean for LDA After many months of political ads, debates, and discussion, the midterm elections have now come and gone.  LDA is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization. However, the political landscape can have a significant impact on the group’s advocacy on behalf of its members.  Legislators across the political spectrum may champion issues of concern to LDA and help move the organization’s agenda forward.  So what changes occurred in the elections that may impact LDA’s efforts? Before discussing the direct impact of the election on LDA, here are a few brief “civics” reminders.  The 115th Congress (member of… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – October 2018

New Director of OSEP Appointed After an extended period without a permanent director, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education has a new chief.  Laurie VanderPloeg, a longtime special educator and advocate, has been appointed as OSEP Director.  At the time of her appointment, Laurie was serving as president of the Council for Exceptional Children and had previously been president of the Council of Administrators of Special Education. The new director who hails from the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a middle and high school special education teacher. … Read More »

LDA Legislative News – July 2018

Collett Addresses Department Policy Lens Johnny Collett, Assistant Secretary of Education for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), U.S. Department of Education, recently addressed the lens through which his department will examine current and future policies related to children and youth with disabilities.  At a Town Hall sponsored by the Council for Exceptional Children and the Council of Administrators of Special Education, Collett said that “tinkering around the edges” will not suffice to provide a system that adequately serves individuals with disabilities. Collett noted that “systems change is not easy” and that it “doesn’t happen quickly.”  He said, in fact,… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – June 2018

School Safety Commission to Provide Recommendations The Federal Commission on School Safety was established by the president in March 2018.  Secretary of Education DeVos chairs the Commission, and the other members are the Attorney General and Secretaries of the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.  LDA is developing comments to submit to the Commission on how to improve safety in our schools and specifically how to address the needs of  students with learning disabilities in a safe school environment. The Commission is charged with developing recommendations focused on keeping students safe in school.  They are considering areas… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – May 2018

Education Department Reviews Expenditures on OSEP Centers The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS, U.S. Department of Education) has been seeking public comment by May 24 on the best way for the Department to provide technical assistance to states on the collection and reporting of data under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The IDEA allows the Department to set aside not more than 0.5 percent of Part B funds to provide technical assistance to states to improve their capacity to meet data collection requirements. Since the passage of the federal special education law, states have been… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – April 2018

Federal Spending Up, But What’s Next? Six months into federal Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 2018) Congress finally passed an omnibus appropriations bill to fund all federal programs and activities. Much to everyone’s surprise, especially after the president proposed an extremely austere budget, Congress reached an agreement that increased spending to levels not seen in quite a few years. The president now has expressed interest in rescinding – rolling back – some of the spending in the bill he already signed into law. What happens next? More… As an example, education funding for the remainder of FY 2018, ending September 30,… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – January 2018

Congress Kicks Fiscal Can Down the Road Since October 1, 2017, the first day of federal Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 2018), federal agencies have been funded through a series of Continuing Resolutions (CR), stopgap bills that keep the government running until final appropriations (funding) for the fiscal year levels have been set.  Following a brief government shutdown in late January, Congress voted to kick the can down the road until February 8, when once again the government may be faced with a possible shutdown. The federal fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30.  We are currently in federal… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – November 2017

Disability Advocates Oppose Tax Bills LDA has joined the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), with LDA and around 100 national disability organizations as members, to oppose current efforts to rewrite federal tax laws.  A large majority of CCD members opposed the House bill and now are expressing the same serious concerns about the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The coalition has focused on the fact that crucial health, education, and other federal programs that impact the lives of individuals with disabilities will likely need to be cut deeply to compensate for proposed decreased federal tax revenues of more… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – October 2017

OSERS Recinds Outdated Guidance In February, the president issued Executive Order 13777 establishing a Regulatory Reform Task Force to evaluate existing regulations and make recommendations regarding “repeal, replacement, or modification.” As part of this process, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), U.S. Department of Education has undertaken a review of non-regulatory guidance documents. In the first phase of its review, OSERS has announced rescission of 72 documents deemed “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective.” Of the rescinded documents, 63 were from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the remaining 9 from RSA (Rehabilitative Services Administration). No regulations… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – September 2017

CHIP Funding to Expire September 30 With the health care focus squarely on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, little attention has been paid to a looming deadline for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  CHIP is authorized through 2019.  However, funding expires on September 30, 2017, jeopardizing health care for the nearly 9 million children covered by this program.  Despite its relatively small number of recipients compared to Medicaid, CHIP has significantly helped reduce the percentage of uninsured children, especially those with moderate incomes. Unlike Medicaid, CHIP funding must be extended by Congress every few years.  To that… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – July|August 2017

House Committee Votes Deep Education Cuts Without the advantage of knowing first the total amount they have to spend for the next fiscal year, the House Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee went ahead to develop a bill for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 2018) $5 billion below the current budget cap.  Within a week after the subcommittee vote, the full House Appropriations Committee approved basically the same bill, which cuts U.S. Department of Education programs by $4.2 billion (6.2%) below the current funding level. This House committee action is just one step in the process of determining final spending levels… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – March 2017

President’s Funding Proposals Would Seriously Harm LDA Priorities On March 16, the White House released the president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (School Year 2018-19), which will begin on October 1, 2017.  That budget contains draconian cuts to LDA priority programs, including education, job training, physical and mental health, environmental protection, and juvenile justice.  Overall the budget would cut discretionary spending, except for defense, by $54 billion, while increasing defense, homeland security, and veterans’ affairs by an almost equivalent amount. Among the agencies hardest hit are the Departments of Labor and Education and the Environmental Protection Agency.  As an… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – November 2016

Election Impact on Disability Policy Unclear It is too soon to tell what impact the change in Administration will have on disability policy. LDA will have a better sense once decisions are made about who will lead the Cabinet agencies, including Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice. However, as has always been the case, LDA will meet the Administration and members of Congress where they are and advocate for strong policies that positively affect the lives of individuals with learning disabilities. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, LDA cannot engage in partisan political activity. In fact, LDA members represent a… Read More »

LDA Legislative News – June 2016

Education Department Proposes ESSA Regulations The U.S. Department of Education has issued draft regulations to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and now the public gets to comment. The regulations address school accountability, data reporting, and consolidated State plans. In May the regulatory process began with a panel of negotiators examining draft regulations related to assessment and supplement-not supplant rules. The panel was only able to agree on draft regulations on assessment, but the Department has not included those in the current package. “Adequate yearly progress” and other features of the federal accountability system included in No Child Left… Read More »