Policy & Advocacy Newsline ~ May 21, 2019

Transformation to Competitive Employment Act

Great news – the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873/S.260) was featured at a hearing entitled “Eliminating Barriers to Employment: Opening Doors to Opportunity” in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 21 before the full Education & Labor Committee. This is a very positive step towards promoting awareness of this bill and generating support for it, but we need YOUR help to get more cosponsors onto this bill so that it can continue to advance! Please contact your Members of Congress through this NDSC Action Alert and let’s build support for this bill.

Introduced in the Senate by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and in the House by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), this bipartisan legislation will address barriers to employment and expand opportunities for competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities while phasing out subminimum wage certificates under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act over a six-year period. In addition, for those who choose not to work, work part-time, or for whom their disabilities make it too difficult to maintain work in a competitive integrated setting, this bill includes individualized wraparound services that provide them with opportunities for meaningful training and social activities in the community.

You can find a two-pager about this bill and additional resources on the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination website. For information about Competitive Integrated Employment, please see this new website developed with our partners in the newly formed Coalition to Advance Competitive Integrated Employment. Please #WorkWithUs and build more opportunities for competitive integrated employment!

HUD Issues Guidance on ABLE Account

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued long-awaited guidance clarifying that funds in ABLE accounts will not be considered in determining a person’s eligibility for means-tested housing assistance. ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts for eligible individuals with disabilities and their families that allow them to save for many different types of qualified disability-related expenses without jeopardizing their eligibility for benefits through Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, private insurance, and other sources. Please visit the ABLE National Resource Center website for more information about ABLE. 

We are pleased to see that HUD’s guidance reinforces the language, spirit, and congressional intent of the ABLE Act to “supplement not supplant” public benefits for the ABLE account owner, including HUD’s services and supports. The guidance is great news for people who are qualified to open ABLE accounts who rely upon HUD for housing assistance. The HUD guidance aligns with the language of the federal ABLE law and other federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services that have already affirmed that assets in ABLE accounts will not be considered for eligibility for means-tested benefits.

Autism CARES Reauthorization

NDSC is advocating for the reauthorization of the bipartisan Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act (also known as the Autism CARES Act). The current Autism CARES Act, set to expire on September 30, 2019, provides $260 million annually to autism research, surveillance, and education programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). These programs benefit all people with developmental disabilities, including all people with Down syndrome and especially the approximately 18% of people with Down syndrome who have a co-occurrence of autism. Please use our Action Alert to contact your Members of Congress and ask them to cosponsor and support this bill. Time is running out for reauthorization, so call or email TODAY!

Advocacy Training Boot Camp at the NDSC Convention

 2018 Boot CampThursday, June 27, 2019
8 AM –12 PM

  • Designed to be an Advocacy 101 mini-course
  • Defining advocacy 
  • Overview of basic government processes (state vs. federal, appropriations)
  • Discussion on how to effectively engage with legislators
  • Hear from panels of advocates (including self-advocates) will share their tips and experiences

Hear from Heather Sachs, NDSC Policy Director, about her advocacy journey since her daughter’s birth.

Free to Convention attendees!
Conference registration is now open, be sure to register!

 Register Here Button

NDSC Convention –June 27-30, 2019, in Pittsburgh, PA

ESSA State Plan and Legislation Database

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has created an Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan database, which could be a great tool for state education advocates. According to NCSL “the database allows users to access individual state profiles and summaries, sort and filter plan components, and locate state legislation. Additionally, the project includes an online companion guide that provides insight into selected requirements of the State Plans, a summary of commonalities seen throughout the approved State Plans and guiding questions to support legislators and legislative staff utilizing the information available in the database.”

IDEA and ESSA Full Funding Bills

A full funding bill for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title I of ESSA was recently introduced in the Senate and the House. In addition, bills which focus solely on full funding for IDEA were also introduced in the Senate and the House.
As funding for students with disabilities is discussed it is important to note that there is a new requirement in ESSA regarding the reporting of per-pupil expenditures at the school level in state/local ESSA report cards for this school year. These data will likely cause more people to point to students with disabilities as a budgetary “burden” and will make the insufficient level of federal funding for IDEA even more important to address.

House Appropriations Committee Approves Bill that Increases Education Funding

The House appropriations committee approved a fiscal year 2020 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill. There is a lot covered in the bill, but of note in the education section is a $1 billion increase for IDEA funding (the last section in the summary is education). Also, many programs cut in the President’s budget are funded (many with increases) in this bill.

9th Circuit Inclusion Case- RM v Gilbert Unified School District

The following is information on the case that was shared with NDSC by the Plaintiff’s attorney:

The 9th Circuit affirmed the District Court’s determination that moving “the location” of services of a child with Down syndrome from a resource room at his home school to a separate class at a different school site was within the District’s administrative prerogative since the District believed it was a better “location” to implement the services. The case centered around the legal issue of whether the proposed change was one of “location” or of “placement” which have different legal standards (only the latter is based on Least Restrictive Environment and the former is administrative and largely permissible). As resolution of the issue was a fact intensive inquiry, both the District Court and Court of Appeals decisions were memorandum decisions and are not precedential in other cases. Court rules prohibit citation to memorandum decisions in most circumstances. As the parents believed that regardless of what happened if further appeals were filed, their child was not wanted in this District, after careful consideration the family decided not to pursue other avenues of appeal. Also, further appeal would risk adverse court opinions that could impact other cases. Instead, they are focused on supporting their child in a new educational setting. 
NDSC (as well as Stephanie Smith Lee and Madeleine Will in their capacities as former US Department of Education officials) joined in an amicus brief on this case to support inclusive education and the principles of Universal Design for Learning as a means to foster and facilitate inclusion. The Court of Appeals decision and The Plaintiff’s brief are available via these links. 

Application Available for a State to Receive Intensive Technical Assistance on Inclusion

The TIES Technical Assistance (TA) Center on Inclusive Practices and Policies for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities recently sent all State Directors of Special Education an invitation to submit a proposal to be considered as the second state to work intensively with the TIES Center. Maryland was the first state to be selected. The application deadline is May 31st.

The state must be interested in partnering with TIES to work intensively on implementing and sustaining inclusive educational practices for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in grades K-8 by putting policies and practices in place that will support the movement of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities to more inclusive settings, as well as provide the supports needed to increase engagement and learning outcomes for these students in those settings. The state must have one or more districts interested in being considered as an intensive TA site. If you think your state would be a good match for this intensive TA, please encourage your State Director of Special Education to apply.
To learn more about TIES visit their website. NDSC’s Senior Education Policy Advisor, Ricki Sabia, is the parent liaison to the Center.

Update on Delay of Significant Disproportionality Regulations

On April 29th, NDSC joined other civil rights organizations in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) urging Secretary DeVos to comply with a March 7th U.S. District Court decision that invalidated the Department’s plans to delay the implementation of the IDEA significant disproportionality regulation for two years. This regulation addresses significant racial and national origin disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities. The court found that the Department had failed to provide a reasoned explanation for the delay and that it failed to consider the burdens the delay imposed on parents and their children with disabilities, State education agencies (SEAs), local education agencies (LEAs), and society. You can read the letter and the District Court opinion.  On May 8th it was reported by Education Week that the Department plans to appeal the decision of the District Court. 

Long-time OSEP Official Moves to Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

The announcement below was in the recent newsletter from the U.S. Office of Education Programs (OSEP). We expect it will be beneficial to have Ruth Ryder, who has a long history at OSEP working with many Democrat and Republican administrations, to be in a leadership role at the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. She will be involved in ESSA implementation.

“Ruth Ryder, OSEP’s long-time deputy director, recently transitioned from OSEP to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). She is now the deputy assistant secretary in OESE’s Office of Formula Grants, the office that administers Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Ruth was an incredible mentor and teacher during our time together. I look forward to our continued collaboration and am excited that such a strong advocate for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families is firmly centered in the general education realm.”

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