October 29th, 2021

October 2021 Policy News Round-Up

The President’s Build Back Better plan, the Senate releases FY 22 appropriations bills, ED releases Q&A on IDEA Part C, and Catherine Lhamon is confirmed as OCR’s Assistant Secretary. See how NCLD worked on behalf of students with disabilities this LD Awareness month.

White House Releases Framework and House Releases Revised Text for the Build Back Better Act

Negotiations continue on the President’s spending agenda. The original $3.5 trillion proposal has been revised to a $1.75 trillion bill that was released by the House Rules Committee on October 28th that follows the President’s framework. It is unclear when the House will vote on this bill or if there will be additional changes. Education and related investments in this bill include: 

  • $160.8 million for developing special education teachers 
  • $500 million for grants to support student college retention and completion
  • $300 million for funding to provide broader internet access
  • $400 billion for universal preschool and childcare

Investments that are no longer included in the bill include free community college and school infrastructure. 

NCLD has advocated for increased investment in educators and college retention and completion grants, which has included language in the bill that the grants will support students with disabilities in college. 

Read the President’s framework here and the draft text of the House’s bill here

Senate Released FY 2022 LHHS Appropriations Bill

On October 18th, the Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) released the text for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations bill. The proposal provides a $25.4 billion (35%) increase over the FY 2021 level, a potential historic investment, but it is $4.4 billion less than the House and President’s budgets for the Department of Education (see graph from the Committee for Education Funding).

The Senate’s proposal includes: 

  • $15.4 billion for IDEA Part B (special education programs and services for school-aged children), a $2.5 billion increase from FY 21
  • $503 million for IDEA Part C (program for infants and toddlers), a $105 million increase from FY 21
  • $200 million for special education personnel preparation, a $110 million increase from FY 21

Programs in the Senate bill that were higher than the FY 22 House Bill include:

  • $1.32 billion for Title IV-A for student support and academic enrichment grants
  • $814 million for the Institute of Education Sciences, including $65 million for special education research

Read NCLD’s appropriations requests here

ED’s OSERS Release Two New Q&As to Complete Return to School Roadmap Series

ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) has received requests from stakeholders asking that the Department clarify expectations and requirements for implementing IDEA in light of the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and as more schools and programs are returning to in-person services. The two new Q&A documents are:

OSERS’ August press release reaffirmed the importance of full IDEA implementation and these Q&A’s outline the information needed to ensure this. 

Catherine Lhamon Confirmed as Assistant Secretary for ED’s OCR

On October 20th, the Senate confirmed Catherine Lhamon as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights. In this role, she is responsible for leading ED’s work to: 

  • Ensure justice for students who report discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, or age through the department’s complaint process
  • Investigate systemic discrimination
  • Issue policy guidance and provide technical assistance to assist schools, districts, and states in meeting their obligations under federal law
  • Collect and report data, such as the CRDC, to identify where students do and do not have equal opportunity in education

Read U.S. Secretary of Education Cardona’s statement on Catherine Lhamon’s confirmation here. NCLD and other disability rights organizations have advocated for Lhamon to be confirmed in this role, highlighting the commitment she has demonstrated to the civil rights of students with disabilities. 

In Case You Missed It:

  • Two of NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council members authored blog posts for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for LD Awareness Month. Read Rachelle’s story, titled Forming a Disability Identity as a Dyslexic, here and Kayla’s story, Self-Worth, Encouragement, Times of Value: These Kept Me Going, here
  • Representatives Bruce Westerman and Julia Brownley introduced a National Dyslexia Awareness Month Resolution with 18 bipartisan co-sponsors. See the full list of co-sponsors and read the resolution here
  • President Biden issued an Executive Order on White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans. Read the President’s full Executive Order here

Join us for NCLD’s Annual Benefit on November 9th: Celebrating Forces for Change. The full event is free for all donors and registered attendees. Learn more and register here.

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