November 30th, 2020

November 2020 Policy News Round-Up

This November, as a new Administration and Congress are elected, the current Congress struggles to come to an agreement on funding, the Administration provides guidance for districts on accountability, a GAO report highlights challenges of educating English Learners and students with disabilities during a pandemic, and NCLD publishes a report on social-emotional learning and the intersection of race, ethnicity and disability. See how NCLD worked on behalf of people with disabilities this month.

Washington, D.C. Prepares for a Change in Leadership

After the November 3rd elections , Washington, DC is getting ready to welcome a new Administration and some changes in Congress. President-Elect Joe Biden will become the 46th President and, although they netted a loss of a few seats, Democrats will maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate is still up for grabs for both parties as Georgia’s two senate seats will be decided in run-off elections in January. Prior to the election, NCLD announced recommendations for the first 100 days of the next Administration and Congress. Most importantly, NCLD is urging leaders in Washington, D.C. to respond to the pandemic and support students, families and teachers during this time.

Read the full list of recommendations here

Congress Inches Towards a Budget Agreement as Deadline Looms

Earlier this Month, Senate Republicans released their proposals for next year’s federal budget. This comes months after the House of Representatives passed their version of next year’s budget over the summer. While both proposals have modest increases for important education and research programs, Senate Republicans and House Democrats are still at odds on a number of big items including additional funding for the border wall. Congress has until Dec. 11th to agree on a budget and send it to President Donald Trump or the government is at risk of a shutdown. As members of Congress left the nation’s Capital for the Thanksgiving holiday, a deal was still yet to be made. NCLD pushed leaders in the Senate to include report language (Congress’ detailed guidance to Federal Agencies) that prioritized critical funding for Learning Disabilities Research Centers and Learning Disabilities Innovation Hubs which was included in the House of Representatives budget bill. 

Read NCLD’s full update on the Senate Republican’s proposal here and NCLD’s letter to Senate leaders here.

NCLD Joins with Other Civil Rights Groups to Maintain Critical Accountability Provisions

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published guidance to provide responses to questions states, districts, and schools may have regarding implementation of the COVID-19 waivers and the impact of COVID-19 on accountability systems for the 2020-2021 school year. On Nov. 20, NCLD and 11 other civil and disability rights organizations sent a letter to Deputy Assistant Secretary Ruth Ryder stating our appreciation to ED for publishing the guidance and to reiterate the importance of maintaining critical accountability provisions under ESSA. In the letter, we emphasized that “we cannot improve what we do not measure…,” and “similarly, we believe that states and districts should be held accountable for educating their students this year.”

Read the full letter here

NCLD Endorses the Keeping All Students Safe Act

On Nov. 19th, top Democrats in both the House and the Senate introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act to protect students from dangerous seclusion and restraint discipline practices in school with NCLD’s full endorsement. The bill is sponsored by Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08), Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-04).

The bill would make it illegal for any school receiving federal funds to seclude a child or use dangerous restraint practices that restrict breathing, such as prone or supine restraint. The bill would also prohibit schools from physically restraining children, except when necessary to protect students and staff. Lastly, the bill would better equip school personnel with the training they need to address school-expected behavior with evidence-based proactive strategies.

Read more about the bill here.

NCLD Publishes Briefs on Understanding Student Identity to Promote Equitable Social, Emotional, Cognitive, and Academic Development During and Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic

The economic, social, and learning challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic reinforce the importance of ensuring that all students experience belonging, safety, and support in order to learn. In collaboration with six other partners, NCLD developed resources to help families, school leaders, and district school leaders better affirm, understand, and effectively support students in the current reality we’re facing.

These can be found on NCLD’s webpage:

GAO Releases Report: “Distance Learning: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19”

As part of U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) COVID-19 monitoring and oversight responsibilities under the CARES Act, it examined what is known about the challenges of and lessons learned from providing distance learning to English learners and students with disabilities during school building closures in spring 2020. The GAO reviewed distance learning plans from a nongeneralizable group of 15 school districts, selected for their high proportion of either English learners or students with disabilities. As a part of this report, the GAO interviewed staff at NCLD and also interviewed district officials in four of these 15 districts, researchers, representatives of associations of school administrators and related service providers, and federal officials.

Read the full report here.

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