On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, the Senate voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education by a vote of 51-50. The Senators voted 50-50 and Vice President Pence, who is President of the Senate, broke the tie confirmation vote. Record-breaking numbers of advocates across the country voiced deep concern about Mrs. DeVos’ nomination.
It is essential for advocates to keep making your voices heard on issues of importance, as this level of advocacy will have a long-term impact on educational and other issues. Now that Secretary DeVos is confirmed, NDSC will advocate with her and the rest of the U.S. Department of Education to protect the rights of students with disabilities that are guaranteed under IDEA, and other important federal laws, and to promote improved educational opportunities.
Education Bill Introduced on February 7th
Immediately after Secretary DeVos was confirmed, Kentucky Senator Massie introduced HR 899, to abolish the US Department of Education by December 2018. Co-sponsors so far are Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID).
It is not clear whether Congress will take any action on this bill, but NDSC will monitor it and send an action alert if it gets any traction.
Resolution to Repeal ESSA Regulations Passes the House
Additionally, the House of Representatives voted to repeal regulations regarding state plans and accountability systems under Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). NDSC is watching to see what the Senate process will be and will send out an alert very soon to stop the Senate from repealing the regulations.
ESSA is the law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and applies to ALL students. Although there are accountability requirements in the statute, there are also many areas of ambiguity and undefined terms. It is important to have clarity about the state/district/school responsibility to act when students are underperforming. This is the purpose of the regulations.
The legal responsibility of the Secretary of Education is to issue clarifying regulations to help states implement ESSA. However, under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can “disapprove” regulations that were finalized in the last six months of the Obama administration. Such a vote of disapproval means the regulations are repealed and the Department cannot issue substantially similar ones for that statute. If the Senate also votes to “disapprove” the regulations, they will have no force and effect.
NDSC Holds Successful Webinar
On January 24, 2017, NDSC held a webinar entitled: “Post-Election Analysis: Challenges Confronting the Disability Community and What You Can Do.” In this webinar, NDSC’s Director of Governmental Affairs, Susan Goodman; Senior Education Policy Advisor, Ricki Sabia; and Senior Policy Advisor, Stephanie Smith Lee were joined by the co-founder of the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination, Madeleine Will, to provide an update on key federal legislation, regulations, and implementation issues impacting individuals with intellectual disabilities given the national elections. Topics included the potential impacts on: IDEA reauthorization, ESSA implementation, the reauthorization of the ID provisions in the Higher Education Act, and the future of Medicaid.
A Special Statement, and Request, Regarding our Efforts in Washington, DC
We would like to take a moment to acknowledge all of you who have reached out to us over the past few weeks, especially within the past 72 hours, regarding both your overall concerns about what this current administration means for your loved ones, and your praise for our advocacy work in Washington on your behalf.
We want to assure you that your voices are being heard every single day, and we are working diligently to assure that the rights of people with disabilities will continue to be uplifted.
During these truly unprecedented times, we are making a special request of you, asking for your financial support today to help bolster our efforts in Washington, DC, and to support our outstanding DC-based staff; our team of three who are working tirelessly on behalf of all of us. With the current national political climate, we anticipate a need for expansion of our time and efforts, which is why for the first time in our 45 years of existence, we are reaching out with a “Public Policy Campaign”, in hopes that we can count on you for this unique funding request.
Simply click here if you are able to support us at this time (please note “Public Policy” in the comment section of the form).