January Policy News Round-Up

2024 is off to a great start! USED released educational and assistive technology resources, new early childhood standards were announced, and a version of the RISE Act made progress in the Virginia State Legislature. Learn more about what NCLD did in January.

Congress Avoids a Shutdown, March Funding Deadlines Loom 

The chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees reportedly have agreed on spending allocations for each of the fiscal year (FY) 2024 appropriations bills, so the 12 subcommittees can now start working on their bills. However, there still are not announced spending levels for each of the bills which must be determined. Four of the appropriations bills have a March 1 deadline, and the other eight appropriations bills, including LHHS-ED which includes funding for the U.S. Department of Education, have a March 8 deadline. If members of Congress cannot reach an agreement by those deadlines, those portions of the government will shut down. 

House Democrats Push to Pass the RISE Act to Support College Students with Disabilities

In response to Chairwoman Virginia Foxx and other House Education and Workforce Committee Republicans’ proposal called the College Cost Reduction Act to ease college costs, House Committee Democrats announced their “Roadmap for College Student Success.” The Democrats’ package of bills includes NCLD’s number one legislative priority, the Respond, Innovate, Succeeds, and Empower (RISE) Act. This bipartisan bill makes the transition from high school to college easier for students with disabilities and their families by allowing them to use a variety of existing documentation as proof of a disability when seeking accommodations on campus. During the House Education and Workforce Committee mark-up of the College Cost Reduction Act, Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01) proposed to include the RISE Act in the bill but it did not receive enough support from Committee members in a 19-21 vote. 

Department of Education Releases Guidance on Assistive Technology 

The U.S. Department of Education released a new resource on “Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services.” The document makes several clarifications about the use of assistive technology in schools. It affirms that schools must provide tools to students regardless of cost and ensure that educators are trained to use and assess the technology.

Our CEO, Jackie Rodriguez, commented on the use of assistive technology in an article on K-12 Dive, stating, “In embracing [assistive technology], we collectively contribute to dismantling obstacles and creating a learning environment that is truly inclusive.” 

A New National Educational Technology Plan is Announced

The U.S. Department of Education also published the 2024 National Educational Technology Plan (NETP), urging leaders to address educational technology barriers to equity. Last updated in 2016, the document takes NETP in a new direction from previous iterations, with USED framing the plan as a call to action. There are “three key divides” USED identifies in educational technology that need to be addressed:

  • The Digital Use Divide: relating how actively use technology in their learning
  • The Digital Design Divide: relating to teachers’ professional learning and understanding of educational technology that can help them build lesson plans
  • The Digital Access Divide: relating to inequitable access to technology, including connectivity, digital content, and devices; this section also addresses inequities to accessibility in technology and digital health and safety.

The 2024 National Education Technology Plan provides recommendations for state and local leaders to bridge these divides moving forward and also urges the adoption of Universal Design for Learning frameworks in educational technology usage.

Biden Administration Proposes Changes to Head Start Standards

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding new requirements for the Head Start Program Performance Standards. The NPRM allowed an opportunity for the public to comment on the updates, which covered a broad range of standards, including issues related to supporting the Head Start workforce, mental health supports, quality and consistency of services, and community needs and child safety. NCLD joined other disability organizations in response to the NPRM submitted by the Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities (CCD), offering recommendations to improve the new requirements toward greater equity and inclusion for children with disabilities and their families and educators with disabilities.

State Update: Virginia RISE Act Progress

A state-level version of the RISE Act (HB 509/ SB21) has made progress in the Virginia state legislature, advancing from the Virginia House Education Committee with bipartisan support. While this is a tremendous movement forward, members of the Senate subcommittee and the full House are still debating the bill. NCLD sent letters of support on the legislation to Senate Education and Health Committee members and is continuing to support local leaders in their advocacy efforts.

Virginia residents can support this legislation by contacting their state legislators using this action alert.

In Case You Missed It

  • Researchers from Florida State University, led by Dr. Hugh W. Catts, published a new paper reevaluating the definition of Dyslexia and offering recommendations for revisions. 
  • Rep. David Scott (D-GA-13) signed on as a cosponsor of the RISE Act, bringing the count of official supporters to 10 cosponsors in the House and 9 in the Senate.
  • Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Preparing and Retaining All (PARA) Educators Act, legislation establishing a grant program to help schools recruit, train, and retain paraeducators by funding pipeline and credentialing programs, high-quality professional development, and higher wages. In July 2023, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced bipartisan companion legislation in the House of Representatives. NCLD supports both bills.