Equitable Services Regulation 

Since prior updates from LDA of America, significant action has occurred on the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulation on equitable services under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This regulation would direct local school districts that receive federal education funding to provide equitable services to non-public schools. Over the past month, litigation has taken place challenging the legality of this regulation. In NAACP v. DeVos, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Secretary DeVos violated the CARES Act for diverting funding from public schools to private schools. This ruling had national implications and on September 9th, the U.S. Department of Education acknowledged that the regulation is no longer in effect. Through our work as part of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities’ Education Task Force, LDA of America opposed this regulation.

Why Did LDA Take Action?

LDA of America opposed this regulation because our public policy priorities include maintaining that federal education funds stay in public schools and ensure that students with learning disabilities can be served in public schools. 

Fighting Toxins

LDA asked the Toxics In Packaging Clearinghouse to add some chemicals linked to neurological harm – perchlorate and flame retardants – to their model legislation. Adding these chemicals to the list of prohibited substances in packaging will help protect children’s brain health. 

LDA has been working on phthalate chemicals for many years and the science has linked certain phthalates to neurological harm. Phthalates have been detected in Annie’s mac & cheese. LDA has asked Annie’s to remove phthalates from their macaroni and cheese products. 

Why Did LDA Take Action?

LDA’s Healthy Children Project was established in 2002 to eliminate the preventable causes of neurological disabilities, particularly chemical exposures, and reduce the incidence of neurological disabilities in future generations. 

Principles for Safely Reopening Schools

As a member of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities’ Education Task Force, LDA of America signed onto principles for reopening/returning to school. These principles are intended to be viewed as a resource for states and school districts as schools safely reopen.

Why Did LDA Take Action?

These principles are aligned with LDA’s statement on reopening schools including ensuring that students with learning disabilities maintain their IDEA civil rights protections; providing parents of children with learning disabilities with flexibility in their children’s educational setting during this pandemic; maintaining that communication and collaboration between parents and schools is essential to maintain a successful education environment during the pandemic; and increasing funding for IDEA to support individuals with learning disabilities.

Delays of Evaluations and Reevaluations

LDA of America contacted state directors of special education regarding concerns about the delay of evaluations and reevaluations. LDA of America, along with 8 LDA state affiliates and 13 Decoding Dyslexia groups, asked state education agencies to support school districts in providing school psychologists, speech and language pathologists and other school-based professionals involved in making eligibility decisions, with the resources and support they need to apply their expertise in the service of educational equity for students with learning disabilities.

Why Did LDA Take Action?

Our most vulnerable students are depending on the expertise, ingenuity, and leadership of the professionals involved in eligibility evaluations to uncover the path that will allow them to thrive as learners. LDA is committed to advocating for and protecting the rights of all individuals with learning disabilities.

Keeping Watch

Federal Funding

The U.S. Congress is set to pass a continuing resolution that would fund the federal government. The current funding for the federal government runs out on September 30th. The continuing resolution which would extend federal government funding through December 11th, which would keep all U.S. Department of Education program funding at its current level. 

Federal education funding is important for individuals with learning disabilities because specific learning disabilities are the highest proportion category identified under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Furthermore, LDA of America supports and advocates for continued increased and eventual full funding of IDEA.

The Upcoming Election &  Education Policy

With a focus on the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, the upcoming November elections may shape federal education policy for years to come. The U.S. Senate has 35 seats up for election. Of note, the two senior-most Republicans serving on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee are retiring. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee is retiring and the seat is considered a “Solid R” by the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan organization that analyzes and rates elections. Additionally, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) is retiring and his seat is also considered a “Solid R” by the Cook Political Report. With these changes, there will be new Republican leadership for the Senate HELP Committee. Meanwhile, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee is not up for election and therefore there are no changes expected for the Democratic leadership for this Committee. 

In the U.S. House of Representatives, there is expected to be new Democratic leadership for the House Appropriations Committee because Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) is retiring. Several Representatives have announced their intention of running to replace Representative Lowey but a decision will not be made until after the upcoming election. There are not expected to be any Republican leadership changes for the House Appropriations Committee. No changes are expected for the Democratic or Republican leadership for the House Education and Labor Committee. 

Throughout October, we will be keeping close watch on state-level elections such as state legislatures and gubernatorial races as well as the presidential election.