News-in-Brief – December 2009

Common Core Standards Move Forward

As previously reported, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are well into the process of developing Common Core Standards. Two sets of standards are under development: College and Career Readiness Standards and K-12 Standards. NGA and CCSSO solicited comments on the College and Career Readiness Standards in September, and a summary of public feedback can be found here. Unfortunately, there is no reference to the comments submitted by LDA regarding the participation of students with specific learning disabilities. However, we have received acknowledgement in a recent public forum of the need to have more individuals with expertise on learning and other disabilities as part of the review process. LDA will be following up to ensure this occurs.

The draft K-12 standards will be released in January, and the public will again have the opportunity to provide feedback. LDA will study these standards carefully and offer additional input.
Of considerable interest is the Department of Education’s reaction to this initiative. The Department has not formally endorsed the Common Core Standards. However, States applying for the Race to the Top Grants, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, receive significant points in their applications if they adopt “common standards” by August 2010. Those states adopting common standards after that date will still receive some points. While “Common Core Standards” and “common standards” aren’t necessarily the same, clearly the Department has stated a preference for states to adopt “fewer, higher, and clearer” standards and also, under the Race to the Top, is encouraging consortia of states to develop common standards.

Congress Finalizing FY2010 Appropriations

Federal Fiscal Year 2010 (FY2010) began on October 1, 2009. However, with health care reform and the serious state of the economy, Congress did not have adequate time to complete the 12 appropriations bills. Missing this deadline has become the norm over the past several years, so advocacy groups are quite used to Congress passing a series of continuing resolutions (CR) which enable the government to function even though the spending bills have not been passed. The latest CR expires on December 18, and Congress is well on its way to finishing the FY2010 appropriations before that date. An omnibus bill, consolidating the rest of the appropriations bills, was announced on December 8 and quick passage is expected. Under the consolidated bill funding for IDEA Part B, Preschool, and Part C will be frozen at the FY2009 level.

LDA did not expect an increase over FY2009 for IDEA programs. The good news, however, is that several of the Part D National Activities programs, including the Parent Information Centers, will receive small increases. IDEA received $11.3 billion above the normal appropriation through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Congress and the Administration have made clear that the ARRA funds were a special two-year investment and would not become the baseline for future funding.
There are some funding increases and new initiatives under the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill, which includes programs of particular interest to LDA members. For example, the National Institutes of Health will receive $692 million above FY2009 for biomedical research, and an additional $13 million will be provided for children’s mental health services. Transitional Jobs will receive $45 million. This new initiative targets workers, including individuals with disabilities, who face substantial barriers to entering the workforce. Adult Basic Literacy State Grants will also receive a funding increase, enabling an additional 316,000 adults to benefit from the program.

Juvenile Justice Plan Proposed

In response to a request for comments, the LDA Justice Committee is reviewing the Fiscal Year 2010 proposed plan for the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) The draft plan describes discretionary program activities OJJDP proposes to carry out during the next year. In its initial review of the proposal, the LDA Justice Committee has noted the lack of any mention of youth with disabilities, which is particularly disconcerting given both the high prevalence rates of youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system and as victims.

OJJDP is housed in the Department of Justice and was established over 30 years ago to help states and local communities improve juvenile justice systems and control delinquency. The proposed plan addresses Department priorities and traditional OJJDP focus areas. The broad priority areas include addressing and treating children exposed to violence, reentry programs, community-based violence prevention, and disproportionate minority contact. The draft also looks at youth violence and gang prevention, including school-related prevention programs; tribal youth; girls’ delinquency; and child victimization and exploitation.

LDA will submit comments, based on the Justice Committee’s examination of the proposal. Click here to review the proposed plan. The notice also contains information about how to submit comments.

LEARN Act Provides Comprehensive Literacy Plan

Under the newly introduced LEARN Act, States would receive grants to plan and implement comprehensive literacy programs that address the needs of children from birth through high school. The Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation Act (LEARN Act) is sponsored in the House (H.R. 4037) by Representative Yarmuth (D-KY) and in the Senate (S. 2740) by Senator Murray (D-WA). LDA is actively involved in a coalition that worked with congressional staff to develop the bill and is now making visits on Capitol Hill to secure support. The coalition hopes the legislation will become part of a larger bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind).
The bill authorizes $2.35 billion for comprehensive literacy programs, providing funds for existing and new programs through a state formula grant. Funds would be allocated for birth to five (not less than 10 percent), grades K-5 (not less than 40 percent), and grades 6-12 (not less than 40 percent).

Each state would establish a state literacy leadership team, including experts in special education. A comprehensive state literacy plan must be developed, based on a needs assessment, to ensure high-quality instruction in reading and writing from early childhood through high school. Local school districts will be able to compete for grant funds from the state and will receive technical assistance on literacy instruction. Pre-service course work and state licensure and certification requirements must be examined to improve high-quality training in literacy instruction.

At the school level, instructional staff will receive job-embedded professional development, including how to use data to improve learning. The Act also calls for additional supports to address the specific needs of students struggling with reading and writing, including students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency.

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