January 29th, 2021

January 2021 Policy News Round-Up

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are sworn in, a new Congress begins to take shape, and NCLD releases a federal legislative agenda for the next two years. See how NCLD worked on behalf of people with disabilities this month. 

President Joe Biden Signs Executive Orders to Support Education During the COVID-19 Crisis 
On his second day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on “Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers”. In it, he urged the next U.S. Secretary of Education to:

  • Work to provide assistance to safely reopen schools
  • Provide help for social/emotional and mental support
  • Create a clearinghouse of best practices
  • Research the impact of COVID-19 on different populations
  • Collect data on which schools are in-person, blended or fully remote.

NCLD will continue with the Biden Administration to ensure students with disabilities are receiving the support they need during the pandemic. 

Additional COVID-19 Relief Package Faces Barriers in Congress 
On the heels of Congress allocating $900 billion in relief to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in December, President Biden and other leaders in Washington, D.C. are looking for more. However, some Republicans in Congress are pushing back against the proposals due to the cost. President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package that would provide individuals with a $1,400 relief check, more assistance to those who are unemployed, support for small businesses, and a moratorium on evictions. In addition, the proposal has $170 billion to K-12 schools, colleges and universities to help them reopen and operate safely or to facilitate remote learning.

With no consensus on the horizon, Democrats have decided to move forward with or without Republican support through the budget reconciliation process—a process in which certain bills can be passed with only a 51 vote majority in the Senate.

Chairman of the House Education Committee Releases Bill to Address Instructional Loss
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Learning Recovery Act of 2021. The bill would provide an additional $75 billion to states and schools to build out summer school programs, extend school days, and extend school programs. The bill also directs the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to study the impact of COVID-19 on learning and to focus on how the pandemic disproportionately impacted different subgroups of students like those with disabilities. NCLD has pushed for this type of additional investment in education funding as well as advocated for IES to study the effects of the pandemic on students with disabilities.

NCLD Releases Legislative Agenda for the 117th Congress
On January 12th,  NCL) released its 2021 federal policy agenda detailing the most critical issues the Biden Administration and 117th Congress should focus on due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our education system. “As we continue to see the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, lawmakers must act to ensure marginalized students receive a high-quality education,” said NCLD President and CEO, Lindsay Jones. “NCLD looks forward to hearing how a new Congress and Administration will work to improve our education system for the 1 in 5 with learning disabilities and attention issues.” Read the full agenda here.

NCLD Joins with Partners to Support Fully Funding Title I and IDEA
On January 27, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and U.S. Representative Susie Lee (D-NV) announced the reintroduction of the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, legislation to put Congress on a fiscally-responsible path to fully fund Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education/Every Student Succeeds Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on a mandatory basis.

In Fiscal Year 2019, Title I which is a grant program to support schools serving high populations of students impacted by poverty, was underfunded by $29 billion according to the National Education Association. In addition, IDEA calls on the federal government to fund 40 percent of the cost of special education, but Congress has never fully funded the law. According to the National Education Association, IDEA state grants are currently funded at just 13.8 percent – the lowest percentage since 2000.

NCLD joined with over 30 other disability rights, civil rights, and education organizations to support the bill. NCLD is committed to continuing to work together to provide the necessary funding to support students with disabilities and students impacted by poverty. 

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