September 2019 Policy News Round-Up

This month, Congress tries to tackle the budget, NCLD releases three new white papers, the U.S. Department of Education releases new guidance, and more. See how NCLD worked to empower people with disabilities in September.

Congress Tries to Tackle a Federal Budget Deal
Each year, Congress passes 12 budget bills that each fund different parts of the government. The House has passed its versions of all but the Homeland Security and Legislative Branch funding bills. However, the Senate hasn’t passed any yet. Because none of the 12 government funding bills will be enacted before current funding runs out on September 30, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have extended government funding temporarily — just through November 21. This will provide more time for the Senate to pass its version of appropriations bills and then come to agreement with the House. Congress will work over the coming weeks to avoid a government shutdown by the November 21 deadline. Read more about NCLD’s federal budget priorities here.

Chairman Alexander Releases HEA Reauthorization Bill
Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), released his plan to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) on September 26. His plan is a package of 8 bills that would simplify the Federal Application for Student Aid, provide Pell grants to parole-eligible prisoners, allow Pell grants to be used for short-term programs, and increase the maximum Pell grant award. However, civil rights groups criticized the plan as being narrow and failing to advance equity or protect civil rights. NCLD is concerned that the bill does not address much needed fixes in terms of accessibility or accommodations for students with disabilities. We will continue to work with Senators to push for a comprehensive reauthorization of HEA that meets the needs of all students, including those with disabilities. You can read the full text of Sen. Alexander’s bill here.

Three New NCLD Resources on SLD Eligibility!
This month, NCLD released three white papers that explore complicated topics related to the evaluation of students suspected of having specific learning disabilities (SLD). There are important federal guidelines for SLD eligibility that states are applying in different ways. By reading these papers, you can learn more about eligibility rules for SLD and what’s going on across states. The more we learn about implementation, the better we can ensure that students with SLD are identified and served adequately. Read each of the white papers here:

U.S. Department of Education Releases Two New Resources 
First, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released new guidance to support students with disabilities in dual enrollment programs: “Increasing Postsecondary Opportunities and Success for Students and Youth with Disabilities.” While the guidance is a step in the right direction, it does not provide any clarification on a key issue for students with learning disabilities who participate in dual enrollment programs: whether the school is still responsible for implementing the student’s IEP and providing services the student is entitled to. NCLD will continue to work with the ED to ensure that students with disabilities who are dually enrolled know their rights and receive the necessary accommodations and services to be successful.

Second, ED released a guide to help education leaders design and implement state and district report cards required under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These report cards play a critical role in helping families understand how their district and state is educating their children compared to their peers. NCLD has long advocated for transparent and easily understandable report cards. If you want to see how your state stacks up, our partners at the Data Quality Campaign have a tool that shows how each state’s report card empowers the public with quality information.