News-in-Brief – May 2012

Sequestration Threat Prompts Worrisome Responses

As reported several times here previously (Super Committee Inaction Triggers Sequestration,” December 2011; Super Committee Action in Doubt,” November 2011; Jury is Out on Deficit Reduction Plan,” September 2011), a process called sequestration threatens cuts of around nine percent in all discretionary and some mandatory federal program beginning in January 2013. Sequestration was triggered when the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction failed last fall to reach agreement on how to meet the deficit reduction target. Some members of Congress are focused on averting cuts to the defense budget, prompting others to find ways to stop what would be even deeper reductions to programs such as education, health, and social services, if defense programs were exempted from sequestration.

To address the sequester problem, the House just passed the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act (H.R. 5652). No Democrats voted for the bill, and sixteen Republicans opposed it. The bill, among other provisions, cuts $7.7 billion in federal food stamp spending in the first year, puts limits on Medicaid payments, and end grants for health insurance exchanges. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the legislation would stop about $72 billion of the sequester, which requires reductions of $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. The rules for debate prevented a vote on an alternative Democratic proposal that focused more heavily on increasing tax revenues to address the deficit problem.

The Senate is not expected to take up the House bill, and the White House issued a veto threat. The Senate is still working to pass a Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2013, and several members have bills that would include cuts that are deeper than those called for under sequestration.

Most likely a fix for sequestration and decisions for the next fiscal year will not be determined until the post-election lame duck session.


Department Offers Further Guidance on Restraint/Seclusion Policies

The U.S. Department of Education has issued a new document providing fifteen principles for the development or revision of policies that support the use of positive behavioral supports and interventions and discourage the use of restraint and seclusion. These principles support the Department’s position that restraint and seclusion should be used only when a student’s behavior poses an imminent threat of physical harm to the child or others.

The fifteen principles are as follows:

  • Every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and seclusion.
  • Mechanical restraints should never be used to restrict a child’s freedom of movement, nor should drugs or medication be used to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement unless ordered and administered by a trained medical professional.
  • Physical restraint or seclusion should be used only when behavior poses imminent danger to the child or others and other interventions are ineffective, and should be discontinued as soon as the imminent danger has passed.
  • Policies restricting the use of restraint and seclusion should apply to all children, not just children with disabilities.
  • Any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child’s rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse.
  • Restraint or seclusion should never be used as punishment or discipline, as a means of coercion or retaliation, or for convenience.
  • Restraint or seclusion should never be used in a way that restricts a child’s breathing or harms the child.
  • Repeated use of restraint and seclusion with a child, multiple uses in a classroom, or multiple uses by the same individual should trigger a review and, if appropriate, revision of current strategies to address dangerous behavior, including consideration of positive behavioral strategies if not already in place.
  • Behavioral strategies resulting in the use of restraint or seclusion should address the underlying cause or purpose of the dangerous behavior.
  • Staff should receive regular training on the appropriate use of effective alternatives to physical restraint and seclusion, such as positive behavioral interventions and supports, and in the safe use of restraint and seclusion only for cases involving imminent danger of serious physical harm.
  • Every time restraint or seclusion is used, the procedure should be carefully, continuously, and visually monitored to ensure the appropriateness of its use and safety of the child, other children, and personnel.
  • Parents should be informed of policies on restraint and seclusion, as well as applicable federal, state, and local laws.
  • Parents should be notified as soon as possible following each instance in which restraint or seclusion is used with their child.
  • Policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion should be reviewed regularly and updated as appropriate.
  • Policies should require written documentation of each incident involving the use of restraint or seclusion and provide for specific data collection to enable staff to understand and implement these principles.

Congress is proceeding with consideration of legislation that would provide federal parameters for the use of restraint and seclusion, including staff training, data collection, and parent notification. A hearing is scheduled in the Senate on June 28.

To access the Department of Education document, go to http://www.ed.gov/policy/restraintseclusion.


Administration Issues Career-Tech Blueprint

The U.S. Department of Education recently released Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education, its proposal for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). Although Perkins does not expire until next year and action is highly unlikely in the current Congress, the Department has sent an important message about the need to improve and enhance programs that provide students with marketable skills. One criticism already leveled at the proposal, however, is the radical way it would change how funds reach local schools, perhaps leaving some areas with no funds at all.

Four themes are enunciated in the Perkins blueprint.

  • Alignment between career and technical education (CTE) and labor market needs.
  • Collaboration among secondary and postsecondary institutions, employers, and industry to improve program quality.
  • Accountability for improving academic outcomes and incorporating technical and marketable skills into programs.
  • Increased emphasis on innovation, including systemic reform of state policies and practices to support effective practices at the local level.

Of course, the blueprint is just that, a statement of principles with some detail. One detail, however, is very clear and has met with concern in the CTE community. The blueprint would change Perkins funding from the current formula from states to local schools to a competitive funding system. Current law also provides separate funding streams for local school districts and postsecondary institutions. The blueprint would change that practice and instead fund only consortia of local school districts, postsecondary institutions, and their partners. CTE groups are concerned this shift might leave some areas that do not have grant-writing capacity, including rural areas, without needed funds to ensure quality programs.

The Administration’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget would freeze funding for the Perkins Act at the present level. While freezing the Basic State Grants, the budget includes $1 billion over three years in mandatory funding for a new career academies program. Career academies are smaller learning communities within larger high schools where students are taught by an inter-disciplinary team of teachers focused on a particular career track. For example, curriculum might be focused on the skills needed for health-related careers, and the school would forge partnerships with potential employers in those fields.

The Administration also proposes to create a new Community College to Career Fund at $8 billion over three years to develop partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train skilled workers.

LDA closely monitors all proposals regarding career and technical education. CTE is an alternate avenue for students with specific learning disabilities to acquire skills that will enable them to find meaningful employment. For more details on the Department of Education blueprint, go to http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-releases-blueprint-transform-career-and-technical-educat.


Bills Provide Different Approaches to Adult Ed Funding

As reported in the April News in Brief (“Workforce Investment Act Bills Introduced”), two bills to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) have been introduced in the House of Representatives. Title II of WIA, last reauthorized in 1998, is the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (Title II). Funding for adult education has been frozen for a number of years, a decline in real dollars of 17 percent over the last decade. Non-federal dollars also have shrunk over the same period. These funding decreases have led to a large increase in individuals on waiting lists for services in almost every state.

The Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 (H.R. 4297) eliminates the maintenance of effort (MOE) provision in current law that requires states to maintain a certain level of financial effort for adult education. MOE is measured by cost per student and aggregate expenditure, and the penalty for non-compliance is a reduction in the state’s federal allocation. Under H.R. 4297, states would still be required to provide a 25 percent non-federal match, as in current law. However, eliminating MOE could result in significant decreases in state and local funding, resulting in fewer available services. H.R. 4297 also would authorizes only current levels of federal spending for Fiscal Year 2013 (beginning in October 2012) and into the next five fiscal years. This would inhibit any growth in the program for the foreseeable future.

The other bill that has been introduced is the Workforce Investment Act of 2012 (H.R. 4227). Rather than a freeze in funding, this bill calls for $1.1 billion for adult education, nearly double the current appropriation. H.R. 4227 also leaves the maintenance of effort provision in place.

Another major contrast between the two bills is their approach to research on adult education. There has been a dearth of research on best practices in this area, particularly in new approaches such as career pathways and dual and concurrent enrollment. In fact, there are no independent national research centers doing this kind of work. Instead, two organizations – the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy and the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) – have filled this role, and both have lost their funding or been totally eliminated.

H.R. 4297 repeals NIFL, which although unfunded has remained in the law. The bill has no provisions that might replace NIFL’s role in adult education research. In contrast, H.R. 4227, restores an independent research body, titled the National Institute for Adult Education and Literacy in the bill, and provides $250 million for a national adult learning and technology resource center.

There has been some talk about moving a WIA bill this year, although time is drawing short for the full legislative process to be completed. At least the House has presented some options for what a reauthorized program might contain. LDA will continue to update its members as the process moves forward.


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