by Myrna Mandlawitz, LDA Policy Director
On February 24, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order aimed at “lower[ing] regulatory burdens on the American people by implementing and enforcing regulatory reform.” Each federal agency, including the U.S. Department of Education, was instructed to designate a staff person as its Regulatory Reform Officer (RRO) and to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force. The Task Forces were asked to evaluate current regulations and recommend to agency heads which might be repealed, replaced, or modified. At a minimum, Task Forces must attempt to identify regulations that “eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation; are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective; impose costs that exceed benefits; [or] create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiative and policies….”
The Department of Education and other federal agencies requested input from the public on the repeal, replacement, or modification of regulations. LDA members are concerned about many federal programs in Education and other agencies that impact the lives of individuals with learning disabilities. The organization chose to focus its comments mainly on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as a significant number of children and youth with learning disabilities are impacted by this important program.
As requested, LDA submitted comments in late August to the Department of Education, recommending all current regulations, guidance documents, letters of interpretation, and technical assistance letters to states and local school districts be maintained. The organization noted the IDEA is a complex law with accompanying regulations that are comprehensive and written in language that closely follows the words of the statute. Further, LDA stated that families rely on both the law and regulations and Department interpretations of those regulations. In fact, the regulations and interpretations are critical to ensuring children and youth with learning disabilities receive services that help them advance academically and graduate high school in greater numbers, and provide families with a voice in their children’s education. The organization also cited the extensive stakeholder input into the current regulations.
In addition to requesting written input, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) held a listening session in Washington and two in other parts of the country to get additional information from stakeholders on repeal, replacement, and modification of the regulations. LDA Policy Director Myrna Mandlawitz reiterated LDA’s written comments requesting no changes to current regulations. From the state and local special education directors to providers and parent groups, as well as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the 100-organization national disability coalition of which LDA is an active member, all concurred that the process of changing regulations in this fashion is ill-advised and highly unusual. Several cited the Administrative Procedures Act, enacted by Congress in 1946, which details the specific procedures agencies must follow to develop and issue regulations, noting the current Executive Order does not conform to this long-established law.
LDA also noted in its written comments that accountability regulations issued shortly after the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) were rescinded before even going into effect. School districts and states had already begun planning for implementation of ESSA when those regulations were removed, reducing clarity around what is required under the statute.
LDA will continue to monitor the effort to roll back regulations and Department guidance, offering additional comments and registering concerns as necessary. We will report further as the process continues through our monthly Legislative News