The NDSC annual convention is fast approaching (online registration closes June 29th). Join the NDSC policy team, parent and self-advocate leaders, and other experts in Sacramento, July 20-23. Register now!
Policy team members will be leading convention workshops focused on advocacy and key policy issues:
Empowering Effective Federal, State, and Local Advocates to Speak Up
What’s Happening in Washington, DC and What You Can Do
Universal Design for Learning (UDL): The Path to Meaningful Inclusion
Be an Informed Education Advocate: The Future Depends on It!
Intro to Inclusive Higher Education: What You Need to Know
Postsecondary Education Outcomes: The Future is Bright
Action Needed Today on Bill that would Dismantle Medicaid!
The Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) will be voted on as early as June 26th. Reports from Capitol Hill indicate that the Senate bill will look very much like the bill passed by the House of Representatives. That would be devastating to children and adults, with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Republican and Democratic governors are calling for a bi-partisan bill. The Senate bill is being drafted in secret with no transparency, no hearings or testimony from experts and will be released to other Senate members with very little review time before a vote.
It will change Medicaid from an entitlement system (everyone who meets the current eligibility requirement will be eligible to receive services) to a system in which the states would decide who receives what services and what they will receive. Services that individuals with disabilities need to live and work in the community could be lost. See the latest NDSC Action Alert (updated).
Advocacy in Action
“Advocacy can appear daunting. A task best left to those who know what they are doing, right? But here is the secret: No one knows how to do this better than you and me, the parents.”
Raquel Ross tells her story in the Summer issue of Down Syndrome News. See page 24 to read more!
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
ESSA, the federal law governing the education of all students, requires each state to develop a plan that describes how the state intends to identify schools needing improvement and what the state will do to help schools improve. States continue to release draft ESSA plans that will be submitted to the US Department of Education (ED) on September 18, 2017. NDSC and the Advocacy Institute have developed a guide with advocacy tips to help state advocates review their draft plans and submit public comments to strengthen them. A strong accountability system in your state ESSA plan will ensure that steps are taken to improve the academic achievement of underperforming students with disabilities. The guide is available here. We have been sharing this guide, through our fellow national organizations, with Parent Centers, Disability Rights organizations, University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, the Arc, and other key disability organizations that are present in every state. However, it would still be helpful for you to share it directly with any statewide organization that you think will be engaged in the ESSA plan development process.
NDSC and the Advocacy Institute recently presented a webinar for the Association of University Centers for Disability (AUCD) to provide an overview of key ESSA provisions important to ensuring equity for students with disabilities, share issues identified in our analyses of many of the state ESSA plans and offer tips that are found in our plan review guide. You can view the webinar at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Tv-AC8H6Fo&feature=youtu.be
ED has been reviewing the ESSA plans that were submitted in April. The peer reviewer comments and letters from ED to a few states have already been made public. You can use the interactive map to see which states have submitted plans. When you click on a state you will be taken to a page with a link to the state plan and any peer review comments and feedback from ED. Although it is good to see that ED is requiring a few positive changes to submitted plans, there are critical issues that ED is not asking states to change. Therefore, it is essential that stakeholders advocate for needed changes in the plans before submission.
IDEA Full Funding Act Introduced in the House
The bipartisan Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Full Funding Act (H.R. 2902) has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV), Timothy Walz (D-MN), David Reichert (R-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and John Katko (R-NY). Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is expected to introduce the bill in the Senate. This bill would increase spending over the next decade to bring the federal share of funding for special education up to 40 percent, the amount committed to when the law was first enacted in 1975. NDSC supports this legislation.
#AbleToSave Month is Coming in August!
NDSC will be participating in the August 2017 #AbleToSave ABLE Awareness campaign, spearheaded by the ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC), to blanket the country with information about ABLE and spur individuals with disabilities and their families to open ABLE accounts. ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts that have the potential to significantly increase the independence and quality of life of individuals with disabilities without jeopardizing much-needed benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. There are nearly two dozen states that have already launched ABLE programs, most of which are available to qualified individuals with disabilities nationwide.
The primary goal of the #AbleToSave campaign is to increase awareness and education about ABLE accounts and to accelerate the amount of ABLE accounts opened across the country in the short- and long-term. All ABLE programs which have already launched or will launch in the near future will be participating in this information drive, as well as most national disability organizations. The campaign will consist of informational videos, webinars, social media messages and other resources to spread the word about ABLE accounts.
The ABLE National Resource Center is a collaborative among over 25 national disability groups and run by the National Disability Institute (NDI). It is an information clearinghouse about ABLE laws and programs, provides technical assistance to ABLE programs, serves as a liaison to federal agencies and financial institutions, and provides extensive resources on its website relating to ABLE. NDSC is proud to be one of the original members of the ANRC and is pleased to participate in this informational campaign!