March 31st, 2021

March 2021 Policy News Round-Up

Congress passes a bill with nearly $2 trillion in relief funds to address the COVID-19 pandemic, disability rights groups call on equitable learning recovery efforts, and the Biden Administration pushes to reopen schools. See how NCLD worked on behalf of people with disabilities this month. 

Congress Passes the American Rescue Plan Act 

President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on March 11th, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that provides much needed support for families, schools, small businesses, and state and local governments. The law extends unemployment benefits and provides direct financial assistance to most Americans in the form of $1,400 checks per person, including dependents.

The law includes $3 billion in additional funding for special education programs authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). There is also specific funding to assist schools in addressing other challenges related to the pandemic. In particular, the law will allocate: 

  • $122.7 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund. Roughly a quarter of that money must be spent on addressing learning loss, while additional spending must be reserved for summer and afterschool programs;
  • $39.6 billion for colleges, universities and their students — at least half of that money must be spent on emergency financial aid grants to students;
  • $39 billion for child care programs and providers; and 
  • $7.2 billion for an FCC program that helps schools and libraries purchase equipment and broadband connections.

Read more about the bill and NCLD’s statement on the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act here.

NCLD & 8 Partners Develop Recommendations for Inclusive Learning Recovery for Students with Disabilities

In the latest federal government relief package to states, officials have provided billions of dollars to address “instructional loss”. While states, districts, and schools pilot new approaches to promote learning recovery, these practices must be held to high standards, be accessible and inclusive to students with disabilities, and must have educators prepared to serve students with disabilities effectively and equitably. NCLD joined with 8 other disability rights organizations to provide nine recommendations to have inclusive learning recovery for students with disabilities.

Read the recommendations here and more about models to accelerate learning here

U.S. Department of Education Holds Reopening Summit

On March 24, 2021, the Department of Education hosted the National Safe School Reopening Summit. The summit gathered key education stakeholders from around the nation to discuss best practices on reopening schools quickly and safely. U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona hosted the event and brought in representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and school district superintendents, teachers and students to discuss the issues facing public schools today. The event concluded with President Joe Biden delivering recorded remarks on the importance of reopening schools safely.

Watch the recording of the event here

Survey Shows Three-Fourths of Schools Are Open for Either Hybrid or In-Person Instruction

In response to President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers, the Institute of Education Sciences is conducting monthly surveys of schools across the country. The survey is scheduled to collect data five times, once a month from February through June of 2021. The initial data collection ran from February 22 through March 12, 2021.

During the first data collection, 42 states participated with 3,300 schools responding to the survey. The survey found that:

  • 76% of fourth- and eighth graders in the nation attended public schools that were open for hybrid or in-person instruction, while 24% of students attended schools that offered only remote or online instruction
  • 31% of schools surveyed that offered remote learning had over 5 hours of live instruction. 40% of schools offered 3-4 hours of live instruction and 17% offered 1-2 hours.
  • 44% of schools surveyed stated that students with disabilities were a prioritized group for in-person instruction. The most of any subgroup of students.

Read the full results of the survey here

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