August 2nd, 2021

July 2021 Policy News Round-Up

The RISE Act is reintroduced in Congress to make college accessible for all, ACT changes its accommodations policy, the Senate holds a hearing on Catherine Lhamon’s OCR nomination, and the House Appropriations Committee advances the LHHS-ED bill. See how NCLD worked on behalf of students with disabilities this month.

The RISE Act is Introduced in Congress

On July 29th, the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Dr. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) and in the House of Representatives by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), and Kim Schrier (D-WA).

If passed, the RISE Act would improve the process for students who qualify for disability services by requiring colleges to accept a wider variety of forms of documentation, such as an Individualized Education Program (IEP), 504 plan, notice from a doctor, or an evaluation by a psychologist. Currently, the process for students to access accommodations is restrictive due to many colleges only accepting certain documentation, which has resulted in some students having to pay out-of-pocket for costly new evaluations. 

Read the House Press Release and Senate Press Release.

New ACT Policy Honors IEPs and 504 Plans for Testing Accommodations

The ACT college admissions test is updating its policy for accommodations requests to require less information and to accept requests for students with an IEP or 504 plan. Additionally, individuals with disabilities who do not have an IEP or 504 plan can still seek accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This change takes effect for the 2021-2022 school year

See here for more information on this updated policy.

Senate Hearing on the Nomination of Catherine Lhamon for OCR Assistant Secretary

On July 13th, the Senate held a hearing for the nomination of Catherine Lhamon for Assistant Secretary of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education (ED). Ms. Lhamon previously served as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at ED from 2013 to 2017. In her hearing, she commented that the majority (approximately 60%) of complaints that OCR receives pertain to students with disabilities. NCLD has supported Ms. Lhamon’s nomination due to her  demonstrated commitment to upholding the civil rights of all students. The Senate HELP Committee vote is scheduled for August 3rd. 

Read the support letter that NCLD submitted along with 30 other disability, education, and civil rights organizations here.

House Appropriations Committee Advances LHHS-ED Bill

On July 15, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS-ED) bill which would increase Fiscal Year 22 funding by $55.2 billion. Some specific program highlights of the bill include:

  • $2.6 billion (approx. 20%) increase for IDEA, Part B for a total of $15.5 billion
  • $19.5 billion (approx. 118%)  increase for schools with low-income students (Title I) for a total of $36 billion, 

Additionally, the Committee included report language (pages 126-127) reiterating the importance of LD research and urging the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at NIH to continue its investment in its Learning Disabilities Research Centers and Learning Disabilities Innovation Hubs.

The bill will next be voted on by the full House of Representatives before heading over to the Senate. For more information, including other educational program increases, see NCLD’s blog post. View the full draft text of the bill here

NCLD Provides Input to ED and OMB on Nondiscriminatory School Discipline, Advancing Equity, and the Secretary’s Supplemental Priorities

NCLD was pleased to submit three comment letters to ED and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 

NCLD provided recommendations to OMB for methods and leading practices for advancing equity and support for underserved communities through government. Our recommendations, which highlight focusing on intersectional issues of race, income, language, and disability, can be found here

We also provided comments to ED on the nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline. NCLD is concerned about the evidence of disproportionate disciplinary actions on students of color, students with disabilities, and students of color with disabilities. Read our comments here

Lastly, NCLD submitted comments to ED on the Secretary’s proposed priorities to support a comprehensive agenda. NCLD is pleased to see the intentional mention of students with disabilities and school initiatives that benefit all students, including students with disabilities, within each of the proposed priorities. These included promoting Universal Design for Learning in educator preparation and pedagogical practices, providing multi-tiered systems of supports to meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, and developing or implementing policies and practices that prevent or reduce significant disproportionality on the basis of race or ethnicity with respect to the identification, placement, and disciplining of children or students with disabilities. Read our comments of support and recommendations here

In case you missed it:

  • NCLD released a blog post on our analysis of states’ plans for spending American Rescue Plan funds. While most state plans have been submitted to ED, most districts are currently developing plans for their state education agency to review. We urge advocates to review their state and local plans and provide input. 

  • We know that schools are grappling with the impact of instructional loss and trauma on students’ academic progress and that many schools have experienced an increase in referrals for evaluations. To help districts and families navigate these complex challenges, NCLD has developed three briefs to inform state and district policies and practices and a Parent and Caregiver Guide, available in both English and Spanish. These resources can be found here.

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