DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
LDA is really busy keeping up with all the activity that comes with a new Congress and a new Administration. We're on the Hill, participating in coalitions, and keeping up with changes at the regulatory agencies. And we're dedicated to keeping you informed as LDA continues to make significant contributions to policymaking in Washington !
So here's what's been happening in DC.
LDA has been working on some important pieces of legislation since the 111 th Congress began. Several of these bills have already been signed into law:
- The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 [Public Law (P.L.) 111-2] amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to clarify that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal pay lawsuit resets with each new discriminatory pay check.
- P.L. 111-3 extends coverage of CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program, previously known as SCHIP) which will reduce the number of uninsured children in America by about half over the next 4-1/2 years and boost the number covered by the program to 11 million. The additional funds will be realized through an increase in the federal tax on cigarettes.
- A major LDA priority because of the large infusion of dollars to states for education. the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L 111-5) was passed by Congress and signed by the president on February 13, 2009. Education funds provided through ARRA provide a unique opportunity to jumpstart school reform and improvement efforts while also saving and creating jobs and stimulating the economy. The Department of Education has suggested that these one-time resources should be spent in ways most likely to lead to improved results for students, long-term gains in school and school system capacity, and increased productivity and effectiveness. ARRA provides billions of dollars to strengthen education through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF); Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); Pell Grants; Federal Work-Study; and other programs. It also provides support for adults with disabilities through the Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants program and the Independent Living programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act.
- In addition to the special funding under the ARRA, LDA always works closely on the annual appropriations process. The Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations bill ( P.L. 111-8) was not finished in the last Congress, but was swiftly completed at the beginning of the new Congress.
- Congress also adopted the non-binding $3.56 Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 13). The annual bill gives congressional spending priorities for the next fiscal year, as well as the total amount that the Appropriations Committees will have to spend across all government agencies. The Budget Resolution includes a cap on discretionary spending that is $10 billion less than the Administration's request, which is a strong indication that funding for domestic discretionary programs like education, employment, rehabilitation and housing will likely be tight.
When legislation is not completed by the end of a Congress, those bills "die" and must be reintroduced in the new Congress. Following are some reintroduced bills, as well as some new legislative initiatives, by issue areas. Information on all bills going through Congress currently, as well as archived information on previous bills, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov .
- The ADA Notification Act of 2009 (Sponsor: Rep. Hunter, R-CA), H.R. 2397, would amend Title III of the ADA, which applies to public accommodations, commercial facilities, and private entities, by requiring that individuals filing an accessibility complaint provide a detailed, written notice to the defendant of the alleged violation. Following the letter, the defendant would have 90 days with a possible 30 day extension before which legal action could be taken. A version of this bill has been introduced since 2000.
- The Title VII Fairness Act (Sponsor: Hutchinson, R-TX), S. 166 , delays the time period for filing charges of employment discrimination to allow covered entities to correct the violation.
- Early Detection of Dyslexia in Children Act of 2009 (Sponsor: Jackson-Lee, D-TX), H.R. 60, would require the Department of Education to conduct a study and report on methods for identifying and treating children with dyslexia in grades K-3. LDA is looking closely at this bill, as it has a very narrow focus.
- Keep Our PACT Act (Sponsor: Van Hollen, D-MD), H.R. 1102, would require full funding at the authorized levels of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
- Parents' Right to Know Improvement Act (Sponsor: Heller, R-NV), H.R. 1156, would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require school districts to provide parents, upon request, information about the professional qualifications of pupil services personnel working with their children.
- Every Student Counts Act (Sponsor: Scott, D-VA; Harkin, D-IA), H.R.1569/S. 618, would require, among other provisions, the use of aggregate and disaggregated cumulative graduation rates in determining the success of each secondary school and school district in making adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward state academic performance standards. States, districts, and schools with a cumulative graduation rate below 90% overall or for any subgroup would have to make specified yearly progress in improving this rate or be listed as not making AYP.
- Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2009 (Sponsor: Leahy, D-VT), S. 678, would reauthorize and amend the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974. Among other provisions, the bill would authorize incentive grants to state and local governments for juvenile delinquency prevention programs, including evidence based programs for the prevention and reduction of juvenile delinquency, personnel recruitment and training, and mental health and substance abuse screening and treatment. It also would include mentoring programs as a permissible use of grant funds.
- Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2009 (Sponsor: Markey, D-MA; Feinstein, D-CA), H.R. 1523/S. 593, would treat any food container that contains bisphenol A or that can release that substance into food as a container composed of a poisonous or deleterious substance for purposes of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The Act would ban the use of these containers, and would direct the Food and Drug Commissioner to periodically review the substances listed as safe to determine if there is new scientific evidence to restrict or ban any of those substances.
- BPA-Free Kids Act of 2009 (Sponsor: Schumer, D-NY), S. 753, would require any children's food or beverage container composed in whole or in part of bisphenol A be treated as a banned hazardous substance under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.
- Acid Rain and Mercury Control Act (McHugh, R-NY), H.R. 1841, would amend the Clean Air Act to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury emissions.
As a federal district court judge, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor rendered an opinion of critical importance to individuals with learning disabilities. This case was the basis of negotiations by LDA and its partner, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, in our efforts to ensure continued coverage of individuals with learning disabilities during the recent debates on and passage of amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In her opinion in the case of Bartlett v. New York State Bd. of Law Examiners (970 F.Supp. 1094), Sotomayor stated:
“Plaintiff, an obviously intelligent, highly articulate individual reads slowly, haltingly, and laboriously. She simply does not read in the manner of an average person. I reject the basic premise of defendants' experts that a learning disability in reading can be identified solely by a person's inability to decode, i.e., identify words, as measured by standardized tests, and I accept instead the basic premise of plaintiff's experts that a learning disability in reading has to be identified in the context of an individual's total processing difficulties.”
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Guidance:
The Department of Education has issued a series of guidance documents for states and local school districts on how best to use the ARRA funds. Below you will find some useful links to good information.
Among the Department publications is a new resource, "Using ARRA Funds to Drive School Reform and Improvement." This document includes framing questions for decision-making and examples of potential uses of funds to improve educational outcomes from early learning through high school. While many districts may need to use a portion of their ARRA funds to save jobs, all schools and districts should be considering how to use these funds to improve student outcomes over the next two years and to advance reforms that will have a long-term impact. The document can be found at www.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/guidance/uses.doc .
To date, over $7 billion in ARRA funding under the State Stabilization Fund has been approved for nine states. The latest approved states are Maine , Minnesota , Mississippi , Oregon , Utah , and Wisconsin . The agency has pledged to release funding within two weeks after receiving acceptable state applications. For more information, including approved state applications, go to: www.ed.gov/programs/statestabilization/ . (Approved state applications: www.ed.gov/programs/statestabilization/resources.html .)
Other useful links include:
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is conducting "listening tours" throughout the country on possible changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as No Child Left Behind Act) during the upcoming reauthorization. To find out if and when he will be in your area, check out www.ed.gov/index.jhtml . The tour will be taking place over a number of months, and all the stops have not yet been determined. In conjunction with the tour, stakeholders are invited to comment through a blog on the Department website. If you look on the right side of the blog there will be other stops on the tour listed which will get you to the various topics on which comments are being solicited.
New Department of Education Staff:
As yet, there is no nominee for Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education Programs and Rehabilitative Services. However, the following have been nominated for other positions in the Department:
- Dr. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana – Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education
- Russlynn Ali – Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
- Peter Cunningham – Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach
- Gabriella Gomez – Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs
- Carmel Martin – Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development
- Charles Rose – General Counsel
- John Easton – Director, Institute of Education Sciences
- Senior staff for Education Secretary Arne Duncan:
- Margot Rogers, Chief of Staff
- Juan Sepulveda, Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans
- Judy Wurtzel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development
- David Hoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communication Development
- John White, Press Secretary
- Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools
- Stacey Jordan, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs
- Dianne Piche, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement, Office of Civil Rights
- Julius Lloyd Horwich, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Carmen Nazario has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Children and Families. The Assistant Secretary heads the HHS Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the division responsible for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and several other programs that serve low income families.
In addition, Henry Claypool has been chosen to serve as director of the HHS Office on Disability Policy.
The Department has requested comments on a proposed rule to rescind the December 2007 regulations that would eliminate reimbursement under Medicaid for school administration and transportation costs and restrict access to certain case management services. School administrators estimated that these cuts would have forced them to severely reduce related services (e.g., physical, occupational and speech and language therapies) and classroom aides provided to students with disabilities in special education.
- The outpatient rule narrowed the scope of services that can be provided to low-income individuals under Medicaid's outpatient hospital benefit, such as dental and vision care.
- The targeted case management rule was required by the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA). The Bush Administration had issued a regulation that went far beyond the requirements of the DRA, including making it significantly more difficult for individuals transitioning from institutions to the community by reducing federal reimbursement for transitional case management from the last 180 days of an individual's institutional stay to the last 60 days. In many cases, due to the lack of affordable and accessible housing and challenges in securing support services, it is difficult to impossible to transition to the community in 60 days. The partial rescission removes all provisions that went beyond the requirements of the DRA.