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 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for one year, with the option to extend. This provision would harm the rights and protections of children with learning disabilities. More than 250 LDA members used the first action alert to contact their U.S. Members of Congress! A few days after the first action alert was disseminated, LDA was informed that the provision providing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with a broad waiver authority over IDEA was removed from the COVID-19 legislation.
LDA subsequently learned that a concerning piece, again related to waivers, was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). This proposal would authorize Secretary DeVos to report back to Congress within 30 days on the waivers needed under the IDEA and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). Such a report would provide the basis for the Secretary to recommend any number of waivers that could upend key civil rights protections for vulnerable children. Based on this new report, LDA developed a second action alert that was sent to LDA members and supporters urging Congress to reject this IDEA and Section 504 waiver report from Secretary DeVos. This second action alert was utilized by LDA members more than 110 times!
In addition to these action alerts submitted by members, LDA submitted a letter expressing our opposition to the IDEA and Section 504 waiver amendment to congressional leadership including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with leaders of congressional education committees and Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators.
Despite our efforts on a very short timeline, the U.S. Senate passed the CARES Act with waiver provisions on March 25th. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the measure, and President Trump signed the bill on March 27th.
LDA will continue to closely monitor congressional proceedings as they affect individuals with learning disabilities. LDA will also be sharing our concerns about the waiver language with the U.S. Department of Education.
LDA would like to thank all of our members who responded to these action alerts and who continue to serve on behalf of those with learning disabilities. We are stronger together!