LDA Legislative News – April 2014


Department Collects Comments on RDA

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education has undertaken to revamp its State and federal monitoring processes to focus on improving results for students with disabilities. While the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) called for this change, monitoring has continued to emphasize compliance with substantive and procedural requirements rather than educational outcomes. OSEP is now preparing to institute a new monitoring system – Results Driven Accountability RDA – and is examining stakeholder input on how best to use results data to ensure accountability.

Monitoring data are used to make certain determinations about States’ implementation of the IDEA. Under IDEA 2004, States may be determined to (a) meet the requirements of the law, (b) need assistance, (c) need intervention, or (d) need substantial intervention. These designations are keyed to certain enforcement actions. Improvements were made in the monitoring system in 2013, and now OSEP is moving to the next step in including results data as a major part of the determination process. During the first two years of this new process, OSEP does not plan to take enforcement actions based on results data that would have fiscal consequences for States.

OSEP is considering the use of certain results data in making State determinations. These data include examining a State’s progress over time for participation in and proficiency on assessments in reading/language arts and math, rates of graduation with a regular diploma, and/or post school outcomes. For determinations under the Part C Infants and Toddlers program, OSEP is considering the use of data related to early childhood outcomes and/or family outcomes.

Currently OSEP is collecting input from the public on how they should use results data in combination with compliance data in making State determinations. In addition, the Department is interested in what other or different types of results data might be considered in the determination process.

LDA has submitted comments to OSEP in response to this request. To read the full notice with background information and to view comments from all stakeholders, click here.

Mental Health

LDA Supports Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

LDA and 135 other national collaborating organizations will join in celebrating National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 8. This event, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, began nine years ago to focus on the importance of caring for every child’s mental health beginning at birth. This year’s theme is “Inspiring Resilience, Creating Hope.”

LDA has an active committee examining the impact of mental health issues on individuals with learning disabilities. The LDA website has excellent information on the co-occurrence of mental health challenges with learning disabilities, supported by a number of sessions at LDA’s annual conference.

The celebration of Awareness Day will begin with a national launch in Washington, DC, at a special session at the National Council for Behavioral Health annual conference. Chiara de Blasio, the 19-year-old daughter of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, will serve as the 2014 Honorary Chairperson. Ms. de Blasio will receive a special recognition award for serving as an example of hope for other young adults by speaking out about her experience with depression and substance use.

The session will highlight the value of peer support in assisting young adults with behavioral health challenges, particularly in the areas of education, employment, housing, and justice. Four other young adults will also share their experiences of resilience and providing peer support. The one-hour session will be Webcast live.

On May 8, events will take place in communities across the country emphasizing this year’s theme. For more information about how your community can be involved and to register for the live Webcast of the May 6 events, click here.

Early Ed

Early Childhood Education Takes Center Stage

Discussions focused on the youngest children have taken center stage in Washington. Congress is looking at improving the quality of child care and investing in early education to give children a better start, regardless of their families’ circumstances. Congress is moving to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the president has included major increases in his proposed budget, and the Department of Education is finalizing the process for the Race to the Top Preschool Development Grants.

In mid-March, the Senate passed a CCDBG bill by a vote of 96-2, overwhelming bipartisan support in a Congress that has shown little will to work together. CCDBG was last reauthorized in 1996. This law represents the major source of federal child care assistance for children ages birth to 13 for low and moderate income families. To qualify, families must be working or in school and must meet income eligibility guidelines set by States within broad parameters in federal law. The Senate bill closes health and safety loopholes, including background checks and more pre-service training for child care providers, better monitoring, and continuous year-round eligibility, all of which will ensure a safer environment for children while their parents are at work or in school.

In the final bill that funds the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014, early childhood was a big winner. All cuts imposed under sequestration were restored for the Head Start program. Children with disabilities will benefit, as Head Start regulations require each program to ensure that not less than 10 percent of its enrollees are children eligible for special education or early intervention. Under the authority of the Race to the Top program, Congress appropriated $250 million for new Preschool Development Grants. These competitive grants to States support activities that build capacity to develop, enhance, or expand high quality preschool programs for four-year-olds from low and moderate income families.

The president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY 2015) which begins on October 1, 2014, also includes major new investments in early childhood. The Preschool for All initiative would include $75 billion in mandatory spending over the next ten years, with $1.3 billion designated for FY 2015. These funds would support States’ efforts to provide universal access to high-quality preschool for four-year-olds from low and moderate income families. Key elements of these programs would include teachers with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, ongoing professional development for staff, low staff-child ratios and class sizes, full day programs, comparable salaries to K-12 teachers, and developmentally appropriate, evidence-based curricula aligned with State early learning standards.

LDA is a stronger supporter of early childhood programs. The organization believes early identification of challenges or children at risk provides the best opportunity to get timely services to those children and possibly ameliorate further problems later in life. LDA will keep you posted as these efforts to improve and expand early childhood programs proceed.


House Committee Passes Bipartisan Bills

In what is considered one of the most contentious and inactive Congresses in history, the House Education and Workforce took a step forward recently by passing two bills with strong bipartisan support. Both bills would have some impact on students with disabilities, including students with learning disabilities.

Introduced by Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and passed on a unanimous committee vote, the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (HR 4366) would reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), which gives authority for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the semi-independent research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. IES conducts research on all phases of education, including early childhood, elementary and secondary education, special education, and postsecondary education.

HR 4366 updates the uses of funds and data collection at the various research centers, including the National Center on Special Education Research (NCSER). The bill clarifies that NCSER will focus on supporting research on effective special education practices, innovations in the field, and professional development for all personnel. Other uses of funds include examination of the needs of students with disabilities who are English learners, gifted and talented, and who have other unique learning needs. In addition, NCSER must support research on postsecondary and employment outcomes for students with disabilities, including students in career and technical education programs.

The second bill that passed the Committee with only four dissenting votes is the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act (HR 10). The bill is very similar to current provisions on charter schools in the ESEA. Listed among the purposes of the Act is to “improve student services to increase opportunities for students with disabilities, limited English proficient students, and other traditionally underserved students to attend charter schools and meet challenging State academic achievement standards.” To that end, the bill reinforces providing technical assistance to charter schools to “recruit, enroll, and retain traditionally underserved students, including students with disabilities and English learners, at rates similar to traditional public schools.” Chartering agencies are also required to monitor charter schools to ensure they are enrolling these underserved populations.

The Senate has not taken up either of these bills. However, there are ongoing discussions on the research bill, and the Senate may even consider attaching the bill to another legislative vehicle. LDA will keep you posted on these two bipartisan initiatives.


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