Policy & Advocacy Newsline ~ January 21, 2020

Election Season is Upon Us: Stay Informed – Stay Engaged

As a 501(c)(3) organization, NDSC does not endorse nor recommend any candidates in any political race. Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign or endorsing any candidate for elective public office. Our job is to encourage everyone to stay informed and participate in the political process, particularly as it relates to issues impacting the disability community. Below are a few resources that you can reference to learn about policy issues as they pertain to disabilities and engage with other disability community advocates.

(1) RevUp Campaign: Developed by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the RevUp campaign seeks to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. RevUp contains a wealth of information on topics such as voter registration and accessibility of polling locations, summaries of candidates’ positions on major disability-related policy issues, and a helpful issues guide with questions you can ask federal, state and local candidates.

(2) RespectAbility Report: A project of RespectAbility.org, the RespectAbility Report is a nonpartisan political commentary on U.S. elections with a focus on disability issues. RespectAbility has developed a detailed questionnaire that it has invited each Presidential candidate to fill out; it will also be sending this questionnaire to candidates for Governor and Senate.

(3) @CripTheVote: Started by the Disability Visibility Project along with other advocates, is a nonpartisan online movement focused on activating and engaging disabled people in the political process through blogs, Twitter chats, and a common hashtag, #CripTheVote.

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Update on Affordable Care Act Court Case

In December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the case of Texas v. United States, finding the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional in light of Congress’ elimination of the tax penalty to enforce it. The Court did not invalidate the entire law but rather sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether the other parts of the ACA can legally stand. Provisions such as protections for those with pre-existing conditions, Medicaid expansion, and the ability for people under age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance hang in the balance.

Now, a coalition of 20 states led by California is asking the Supreme Court for an expedited review of this case by November 2020 rather than wait for the next lower court ruling, which could take many more months or years, during which time the instability of our health care system may increase. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has just rejected this request for expedited review, though it did not rule out hearing this case at a later date.

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Proposed Social Security Rules to Expand Continuing Disability Reviews

In November 2019, the Social Security Administration (SSA) proposed new rules to expand the use of continuing disability reviews (CDRs) for disability benefits such as Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). These changes would shorten the length of time between CDRs, which are already time-consuming, burdensome and stressful. Under the new proposal, most people would have to “prove” their disability every two years or risk loss of benefits.

SSA has just extended the deadline for comments to January 31, 2020. NDSC will be submitting comments on this issue to ask SSA to rescind this proposal. If you would like to submit your own comments to these proposed regulations, you may do so by visiting regulations.gov.

Implementation of Public Charge Rule Delayed

On January 8, 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a key ruling to “stay” (pause) the implementation of the US Department of Homeland Security’s newly-expanded “Public Charge” rule. There are several concurrent lawsuits going on in different circuits, but this decision means that none of them can implement the Public Charge rule until the issue is resolved.

The Public Charge rule, finalized in August 2019, is discriminatory to people with disabilities and their families and creates new barriers to legal immigration.

In Fall 2018, when the Department of Homeland Security first proposed the changes to this rule, NDSC submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security to express concerns that it would be discriminatory to people with Down syndrome in that admission to the United States – including travel for a medical procedure or to the NDSC Convention – could be denied solely on the basis of having a child with Down syndrome or another disability. We continue to share these concerns. We anticipate that this case will eventually end up in the US Supreme Court.

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NDSC has partnered with The Arc, AUCD, AAIDD, NACDD, SABE, the Autism Society, and UCP to host the 2020 Disability Policy Seminar. The Disability Policy Seminar, which will be held March 23 – 25, 2020, features two days of informative sessions led by policy experts and offers opportunities for participants to discuss key issues with others from their same state. On the third day, attendees will attend a breakfast on Capitol Hill with Members of Congress and then meet with their elected officials or their staff to speak about the high-priority issues that affect them most. Registration is now open; we hope to see you in March in Washington, D.C!


TIES Center Update

Ricki Sabia, NDSC Senior Education Policy Advisor, is the Parent Liaison for the federally funded TIES Center on Inclusive Practices and Policies for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities. NDSC is proud to be involved with developing many of the TIES resources, including co-authoring parent briefs.

If you would like to learn more about TIES and the resources they offer, more information can be found on the TIES website. or by following their Facebook page where this month they have been posting sections from the article “10 Reasons to Support Inclusive School Communities for ALL Students”.

2020 Education Appropriations

The 2020 appropriations bill has been signed by the President. This bill will provide the U.S. Department of Education with funding for the remainder of the year. While much of the increased funding listed below for IDEA will be used to cover inflation and increased enrollment, it is still important that Congress is increasing this funding. The bill is still far from the full funding of IDEA, which would cover 40% of the state/local excess costs for special education. NDSC will continue to advocate for future increases. IDEA Programs with Increased Funding:

· Grants to states for children with disabilities ages 3-21 (Part B, Section 611) $12.764 billion – an increase of $400 million over FY 2019 or 3.2%.

· Grants to states for children with disabilities ages 3-5 (Part B, Section 619) $394 million – an increase of $3 million over FY 2019 or .8%.

· Grants for infants and families (Part C) $477 million – an increase of $7 million over FY 2019 or 1.5%

· Personnel Preparation (Part D) – $89.7 million – an increase of $2.5 million or 2.9%

· Education technology, media, and materials (Part D) – $29.5 million – an increase of $1.5 million or 5.3%

· Special Olympics education programs (Part D) – $20 million-  an increase of $2 million or 14%

We are pleased that funding for the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disability (TPSID) and the National Coordinating Center (NCC) has been maintained at $11.8 million. More information can be found about TPSID model programs and NCC by visiting the Think College website.

Resources and Advocacy on Restraint and Seclusion

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services released a 46-minute webinar on technical assistance and how federal laws apply to the use of restraint and seclusion.

Although the law currently does not go as far as we would like in dealing with restraint and seclusion, there is information in this webinar to help state and local advocates understand current law – especially how the proper implementation of the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Least restrictive Environment (LRE) provisions in IDEA should reduce or eliminate restraint and seclusion. The webinar also sites examples of how these practices can rise to the level of discrimination against students with disabilities and violate their right to FAPE. Also included is a discussion of data collection requirements.

For more information you can read the Keeping All Students Safe Act, the 2012 guidance document from the U.S. Department of Education, which describes 15 principles for States, school districts, schools, parents, and other stakeholders to consider when developing or revising policies and procedures on the use of restraint and seclusion, which is part of the NDSC legislative agenda, or visit the Stop Hurting Our Kids website.

On January 15, 2020, two U.S. Senators and 10 members of the House of Representatives, urged the nation’s top education official to tell schools to stop putting students in seclusion rooms, stating that tens of millions of children are at risk. In a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, they asked that she issue federal guidance to prohibit physical restraints that restrict breathing and instead promote “evidence-based alternatives” for dealing with challenging behavior that doesn’t involve hands-on contact.  This letter followed a report published in November 2019, documenting more than 20,000 seclusion incidents in Illinois from the 2017-18 school year and through early December 2018.


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NDSC will hold our second College Fair on June 26, at the 48th Annual NDSC Convention in New Orleans. This event is a collaboration with Think College and will be a great opportunity for self-advocates and families to meet college representatives to learn more about postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disability.

Colleges, community colleges, and universities may register to participate. A flyer with all the details of the event can be downloaded and shared.