News-in-Brief – March 2012

President’s Budget Proposes Growth in Education Spending

Kicking off the budget process for federal Fiscal Year 2013 (FY 2013; School Year 2013-14), the president has released his budget proposal. Despite the calls to cut spending, the budget includes a $1.7 billion, or 2.5 percent, increase for education. The Administration states an investment in education is necessary as a proven strategy to increase jobs and boost the country’s economic growth and global competitiveness. The president’s emphasis on education is welcomed. However, some of the details may cause concern.

The proposed budget would freeze funding for the foundational elementary and secondary programs, including Title I compensatory education and the IDEA Part B state grants and the Part C program for infants and toddlers with disabilities. The IDEA preschool program receives a $20 million increase in the president’s proposal. Also frozen in the budget are career and technical education, literacy programs, teacher quality grants, and School Improvement grants to turn around struggling schools.

For higher education, the Administration proposes an increase in Pell Grants, bringing the maximum award to $5,635. Again, however, a number of programs would be level funded that are critical to help students afford postsecondary education.

While the budget proposes freezes in these programs, the proposal includes increases for several Administration favorites such as Promise Neighborhoods and Race to the Top. A few new programs are created in the budget: training and professional development for teachers of science, technology, and mathematics; Race to the Top College Affordability and Completion fund; and, the First in the World (FITW) competitive program that would incorporate current funding for Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities into Higher Education. FITW funds also could be used to support projects that enhance access and completion of higher education for students with disabilities.

The Administration’s budget proposal consolidates 38 programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind) into nine flexible funding streams. This proposal first surfaced with the Department of Education’s Blueprint for the reauthorization of the ESEA. While reconfiguring programs in this way ultimately will be decided through the reauthorization process, the consolidations could be problematic if the end result is the elimination of essential functions such as improving teacher preparation, family engagement, or providing K-12 students with sufficient specialized instructional support personnel.

Congress decides whether to accept some, all, or none of the president’s proposal. The next step is for the House and Senate budget committees to produce their versions of an FY 2013 budget. What is important is the bottom line amount the appropriations, or spending, committees will be given to fund federal programs. The appropriations committees are charged with deciding whether programs are funded and at what levels. Most likely, this process will continue into a lame duck session of Congress in December after the fall elections.

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Committee Passes ESEA Bills, But No End in Sight

There is still no end in sight for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind), which should have been concluded in 2007. In late February, Congress took another baby step forward with the passage of two bills in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bills, drafted by Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), passed on a party-line vote of 23-16, with all Republicans voting for and all Democrats voting against. Democrats offered two amendments, both of which failed, that would have substituted their bills for the Republican versions.

Serious concerns were expressed by LDA and other disability organizations and through the Democratic substitute amendments over provisions that would relax accountability for achievement of all students. In addition, the cap of 1 percent is lifted on counting scores on alternate achievement assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities, essentially allowing school districts to move an unlimited number of students with disabilities into the “alternate” category.

In addition, there are some serious funding changes. Elimination of maintenance of effort provisions is extremely troublesome, both for ESEA and for the possible precedent this might set when IDEA is considered for reauthorization. Another major concern is the change in the authorization, or “full funding,” level for ESEA. The bills cap federal education funding for ESEA programs at FY 2011 levels (School year 2011-12) with only increases for inflation allowed after 2014.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) passed a bipartisan ESEA bill in 2011. HELP Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has stated he will not push to have a floor vote on the bill until the House produces a bipartisan bill. This makes for an even longer road to reauthorization, since House and Senate reauthorization bills must be passed on the floor of each chamber before the process can move forward. The possibility of finishing the reauthorization process this year seems slim. That said, we are proceeding to work on every phase of this process to ensure the best law possible is enacted.

Here are some resources for more information and specific bill language:

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NCWD/Youth Issues New Guides on Youth with SLD

The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) recently released three new InfoBriefs on working with youth with learning disabilities. The briefs examine strategies to help youth with SLD transition into the world of work, identify classroom-based activities to prepare students to transition to postsecondary settings, and provide information about using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model to integrate evidence-based practices into teaching and learning.

Helping Youth with Learning Disabilities Chart the Course: A Guide for Youth Service Professionals is based on research about youth with learning disabilities at transition age. The brief describes challenges faced by youth and young adults with SLD as they become adults and examines strategies youth service professionals can use to help youth move successfully into the workplace.

The second publication, Learning How to Learn: Successful Transition Models for Educators Working with Youth with Learning Disabilities, focuses on strategic learning, which is defined as “the process of incorporating specific tools and techniques to understand and learn new material or skills, to integrate new information with what is already known in a way that makes sense, and to recall the information or skill later, even in a different situation or place … strategic learning is the building and sustaining of long-term learning tactics based on how one learns best.” The goal is to provide educators with information on integrating evidence-based practices to prepare students to transition from school to postsecondary education and employment.

The third brief , Using Universal Design for Learning: Successful Transition Models for Educators Working with Youth with Learning Disabilities, gives a good overview of the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and helps educators understand how using diverse teaching methods and appropriate curricula can improve student outcomes. The focus is on providing students with real-life skills and learning strategies that will assist them in their postsecondary experiences.

NCWD/Youth was established in 2001 through grant funds from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and is housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, DC. The project helps State and local workforce development systems to improve services for all youth, including youth with disabilities and disconnected youth. Partners in the project include among others the Center for Workforce Development, the Center on Education and Work, the Institute for Community Integration, and the PACER Center. For more information on the project and other publications and products, go to http://www.ncwd-youth.info/.

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Civil Rights Data Shows Continued Disparities

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education just released new data from the 2009-10 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). In addition to the regular data collected under the CRDC, the national survey of over 72,000 school districts for the first time looks at data on college and career readiness, school finance, teacher absenteeism, student harassment and bullying, school discipline, restraint and seclusion, and grade retention. Data collected by the Department of Education on students with disabilities served under IDEA, disaggregated by disability category and by education environment, also are included in the CRDC collection. Generally, all student data are disaggregated by race/ethnicity, sex, disability, and English proficient status.

New collections at the school level focused on several topics. Respondents were asked to report several data points on school discipline, including in-school suspensions, categories for one and more than one out-of-school suspensions, zero-tolerance expulsions, referrals to law enforcement, and school-related arrests. Discipline data for students with disabilities were for the first time disaggregated by race/ethnicity, sex, and English proficient status. Other related areas were reported, including bullying and harassment and restraint and seclusion. Restraint and seclusion data were reported according to students and instances, as well as use of mechanical and physical restraints.

The survey examines retention by grade and also looks at course-taking. For example, schools reported on the number of students taking Algebra I at various grades, the kinds of math and science courses offered and the number of students taking those courses, and students enrolled in International Baccalaureate programs.

Data were also collected on staff. New data collections were provided on the number of first- and second-year teachers who fully meet all state certification requirements, the number of high school counselors in the schools surveyed, and the number of teachers absent for more than ten school days, excluding professional development absences.

Some key findings from the 2009-10 collection, as noted by OCR, are as follows:

  • African-American students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers. African-American students comprised 18 percent of students in the sample, but made of 35 percent of students suspended once and 39 percent of students expelled.
  • Students learning English were 6 percent of the CRDC high school enrollment, but were 12 percent of students retained.
  • Only 29 percent of high-minority high schools offered Calculus, compared to 55 percent of schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment.
  • Teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues in teaching in low-minority schools in the same district.

First conducted in 1968, the CRDC is a mandatory data collection, authorized under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The survey is conducted the statutes and regulations implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and under the Department of Education Organization Act (20 U.S.C. § 3413). A representative sample of school districts participates, with certain districts always included such as those under federal court orders.

The data from the 2009-10 CRDC are available on OCR’s website for the CRDC, http://ocrdata.ed.gov. The website also contains CRDC data from 2000-2006. Information can be sorted in different ways and can be accessed for specific school districts and States. In addition, information is available about what data will be reported on 2011-12.
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