LDA Legislative News – March 2015

ESEAESEA Process Slower but Still on Track

The process of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind) has been a long time coming.  Each federal education law must be reexamined through the reauthorization process generally every five years to determine if the law is working, if changes need to be made, or if it is no longer relevant or necessary. The process of reauthorizing the ESEA began in 2007, but without success.  Finally, the process appears to have gained momentum, although the end is not yet in sight.   

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued a draft ESEA bill in January and requested comments from organizations and individuals.  LDA sent fairly extensive comments which are available at https://ldaamerica.org/ on the Home page.  Since that time Chairman Alexander and ranking Democrat Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) have been engaged in conversations to produce a bipartisan bill. 

HELP Committee staff and Senators Alexander and Murray have been negotiating since early February specifically on two parts of the law – Title I, addressing academic improvement for low-income and other disadvantaged students, and Title IX, which contains fiscal provisions such as maintenance of effort.  Staff members have been gathering information also on the other titles of the law.  The chairman and ranking member had hoped to bring a bipartisan bill to the Committee for consideration in mid-February; however, negotiations are still ongoing.  They have recently announced the bill will be marked up in the HELP Committee the week of April 13.  It is anticipated that most of the major provisions of the bill will have been negotiated, and other smaller issues will be handled through the amendment process. 

On the House side, the Committee on Education and the Workforce took up basically the same bill – the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) – passed by the House in the last Congress.  Unfortunately, this bill does not have bipartisan support, and was reported out of the Committee with no Democrats voting in favor.  The bill then proceeded to the House floor.  After a day of debate on numerous amendments, the bill was pulled from consideration.  Some conservative Republicans believe the bill does not go far enough in reducing the federal role in education, while most Democrats feel the bill gives States and local school districts too much control.  As of now, no date has been scheduled to continue debate on the bill. 

While both bills make their way through the respective chambers, one issue looms over the process.  The Senate and House versions are quite different.  Once each bill has been passed, a conference committee will face the difficult task of reconciling the differences in the bills.  If the conference committee succeeds in finding a compromise, it is unclear if the president will sign the bill.  

LDA continues to make visits to congressional offices to discuss our recommendations for a reauthorized ESEA.  We will keep you updated as the process moves forward, with the hope this Congress can find solutions that will improve educational outcomes for all students.


US Department of Labor logoImplementation of WIOA Moves Forward

The reauthorized Workforce Investment Act, known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), was signed into law on July 22, 2014. The U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, each responsible for oversight of parts of the WIOA, recently announced release in early spring 2015 of five Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the proposed regulations for the law.  NPRMs provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the direction the agencies will take in guiding the law’s implementation. 

The five NPRMs will be issued at the same time.  One NPRM will address activities jointly administered by the two agencies, including unified and combined state plans, performance, and aspects of the one-stop system. A second NPRM will implement the remaining provisions of Title I and Title III administered by the Department of Labor. The other three notices will address Department of Education programs, including one on implementation of Title II Adult Education and Literacy and two focused on the Title IV Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  It is expected final regulations will be issued in early 2016. 

A number of WIOA provisions actually go into effect on July 1, 2015.  Therefore, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has already begun issuing guidance to support implementation.  Those documents are available at www.doleta.gov/wioa

LDA will alert you when the Notices of Proposed Rulemaking are available and will send organizational comments, as well.



making-skills (1)_Page_01Adults with SLD Twice as Likely to Have Low Skills

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies’ Survey of Adult Skills reports 36 million Americans have low literacy skills, almost 24 million of whom are currently in the workforce.  In addition, nearly 46 million American adults have numeracy deficits. Among adults with diagnosed learning disabilities, 35 percent have low skills as compared to 17 percent for non-disabled adults.  The Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education OCTAE), U.S. Department of Education, has issued a new report examining how to connect these individuals with more and better learning opportunities to improve their long-term economic, health, and social outcomes. 

The OCTAE report, Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States, http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/making-skills.pdf, notes “the impact of learning disabilities, diagnosed or not, and other disabilities on individuals with low skills is under-researched but long suspected as a major barrier to their learning progress and employment success.”  Of low-skilled individuals with learning disabilities who responded to the OECD survey, only 9 percent reported being employed, 24 percent said they were unemployed, and another 24 percent reported being out of the workforce.  Looking at such poor outcomes and the directives of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), OCTAE will be focusing more heavily on improving academic achievement, skill levels, and high school graduation rates for students with disabilities. In addition, they will increase the focus on improving students’ transitions from school to work. 

The OCTAE report cites seven promising strategies for improving conditions that result in poor literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills for all individuals: 

  • Act collectively to raise awareness and take joint ownership of solutions. This problem is too large to be tackled by any one agency or entity, public or private, so all stakeholders must get involved.
  • Transform opportunities for youth and adults to assess, improve, and use foundation skills by improving participation rates of low-skilled individuals in formal, informal, and employer-sponsored education and training programs.
  • Make career pathways available and accessible in every community. According to research, single interventions are rarely successful in turning around skills deficits.  Partnerships and integrated systems are necessary to achieve real results.
  • Ensure all students have access to highly effective teachers, leaders, and programs. Ongoing professional development delivered through multiple means, including online learning, is critical to ensuring adult education professionals keep current with trends in teaching and learning.
  • Create a “No Wrong Door” approach for youth and adult services. Youth and adults should be able to engage with a variety of service providers and be matched with the best services to fit their needs, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Engage employers to support “learn while you earn” programs. Apprenticeship programs, online learning, and making specific connections between skill building and job payoff are critical strategies.  In addition, employers can take steps to help workers persist in education and training by providing computer rooms, tuition reimbursement, and peer tutors.
  • Commit to closing the equity gap for vulnerable subpopulations. The report identifies a number of groups with specific barriers to employment that should be targeted for specific outreach and deliberate service strategies. Among the groups identified are individuals with learning and other disabilities, older individuals, low-income populations, individuals with limited English proficiency and other cultural barriers, ex-offenders, and displaced homemakers. 

In other efforts to address the skills crisis, the U.S. Department of Labor, under the leadership of Secretary Perez, launched the Skills Working Group in November 2014, a coordinated focus on ensuring Americans have the skills they need to be employed and get ahead.  Thirteen federal agencies, the White House National Economic Council, and the Office of Management and Budget make up the Work Group, including the departments of Labor, Education, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Energy, Defense, Justice, Interior, and the Social Security Administration.


csdg_cover_finalSchool Discipline Report Highlights Continued Disparities 

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA has issued a comprehensive new report titled Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap, which contains an analysis of discipline data at elementary and secondary schools for every school district in the United States.  Overall the report estimates 18 million days of instruction are lost in just one year due to suspensions. Although large disparities still exist in suspension and expulsion based on race, gender, and disability, the report notes many districts have begun to make progress in improving discipline and disciplinary practices.  The report highlights those States and districts with the most egregious discipline records, as well as those making progress.    

At both the elementary and secondary levels, according to the report, students with disabilities are second only to African-American students in the rate of suspension.  In the 2011-12 school year, overall the secondary suspension rate was 10.1 percent.  For white students, the rate was 6.7 percent, for Latinos, 10.8 percent, for African-American students, 23.2 percent, and for students with disabilities, 18.1 percent.  At the elementary level, white students were suspended at a rate of 1.6 percent, for Latino children, 2.1 percent, for African-American children, 7.6 percent, and for elementary children with disabilities, 5.4 percent.  Secondary students with disabilities who are also male and African-American have the highest rate of suspension among all groups at 33.8 percent. 

The report contains spreadsheets allowing comparison and analysis of data across school districts.  In addition, an easy web tool can be found at www.schooldisciplinedata.org  that provides graphic depictions of differences in and comparisons of the elementary and secondary suspension rates for any two districts. Currently, only data from 2009-10 are available, but the site will soon be updated with more recent information. 

You can read the full report and the accompanying information online at http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prison-folder/federal-reports/are-we-closing-the-school-discipline-gap.  

LDA closely follows the school-to-prison pipeline discussion and other information relevant to discipline of students with disabilities. Keep current by referring each month to LDA Legislative News! 


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Feel free to leave a comment below regarding this article. If you have a specific question for LDA, please contact us directly.


  1. Jennie A. says

    Thank you for your informative updates. It would be useful if you could explain LDA’s advocacy on the particular elements of each bill that relate to learning-disabled students.

  2. I’ve made the article regarding “Making Skills Everyone’s Business” the focus of my latest blog post: http://climbingthecindercone.com/2015/03/29/policy-strategies-for-upskilling-the-learning-disabled/ I think many of the strategies can be applied to providing help for the learning disabled in other areas beyond job skills. Thank you for the article.

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