LDA News from Washington
ADMINISTRATION BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS. On February 7, President released his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2006. As promised in his State of the Union Address, 150 Federal programs would be abolished, 48 of which are in the Department of Education. More below...
REAUTHORIZATION OF TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE TO NEEDY FAMILIES (TANF). On March 25, President Bush signed HR 1160 which temporarily extends the authorization for welfare programs through June 30 More below...
PRESIDENT BUSH'S SOCIAL SECURITY INITIATIVE. The disability community is concerned about the impact of the President's Social Security Reform proposals. Retirement and disability benefits are calculated using the same formula. In 2001, the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office, or GAO) found that every Social Security overhaul plan that included private accounts funded from the tax would result in reduced benefits for people with disabilities. More below...
RSA REGIONAL OFFICE CLOSURES. The Department of Education announced it decision to close the RSA Regional offices and the Administration announced its intent to seek super waiver authority to allow block granting of a number of employment related programs, including Vocational Rehabilitation. On February 8, RSA Commissioner Joanne Wilson announced her resignation.
EPA ISSUES "CLEAN AIR" MERCURY RULE. On March 15, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a controversial rule to reduce mercury emissions from coal- fired power plants across the country. Critics claim that the cap and trade proposal ignores the potential for mercury-contaminated hot spots, the proposed exemption for small emitters, and the analyses of regulatory alternatives and children's health impacts.
LDA Executive Director Jane Browning was called to testify before the Democratic Policy Committee on the neurological health impacts of the EPA rules on Tuesday, April 19.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. During his confirmation hearings he referred to Medicaid as "flawed and inefficient."
KEEPING FAMILIES TOGETHER ACT. On February 15, Senators Collins (R-ME), Pryor (D-AR), and Reps Ramstad (R-MN) and Johnson (R-CT) introduced a bill to address the problem of families having to relinquish custody of their children in order to secure needed mental health services.
Also… Congressional budget; Carl Perkins Act; Reauthorization WIA; Raising the AYP Cap for students with disabilities; Reorganization of the Department of Education; OSEP Director Stephanie Lee resigns; and more…
On February 7, President Bush released his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2006. As promised in his State of the Union Address, 150 Federal programs would be abolished, 48 of them in the Department of Education. Programs that would be zero funded include vocational education, assistive technology, dropout prevention, safe and drug free schools, elementary and secondary school counseling, Upward Bound programs and smaller learning communities. Other programs, including adult education, would be cut drastically.
State grants for IDEA and NCLB would be slightly increased. Early Childhood, Part C (early intervention), and Discretionary programs under IDEA would be level funded. Money saved from these programs would be used to fund the President's $1.5 Billion High School Initiative, which would:
1) help states develop and implement new high school assessments in reading/ language arts and mathematics; 2) provide formula grants to states to add annual assessments at two additional high school grades by the 2009-10 school year; 3) increase funding for the Striving Readers program; 4) establish a new Secondary Education Mathematics initiative; 5) expand the availability of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs in schools with large populations of low-income students and to train teachers for those programs; 6) build the capacity of the State Scholars program; and 7) provide a $1,000 Pell award for students who complete a State Scholars program in high school.
Some conservative Republicans, already uncomfortable with the backlash against No Child Left Behind, are particularly reluctant to support the high school initiative not only because of the cost but also because of the perceived intrusion of the federal government into state's control of education. This was only the first step in the long, and often acrimonious, budget process.
CONGRESSIONAL ACTIVITIESTHE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET
The Congressional Budget Resolution sets non-binding budget priorities for the next fiscal year and binding funds that the appropriations committees will have to apportion among federal programs.
On March 17, both the House and the Senate passed their versions of the Budget Resolution. The bill reported out of the House Budget Committee was almost identical to the President's budget proposal. All amendments offered on the House floor to add money for education were defeated.
The Senate Bill is better. Several amendments were passed to add back and increase spending on education. These included the Kennedy amendment to restore the TRIO, GEAR UP, and Perkins Loans programs, provide loan forgiveness for new math, science, and special education teachers, and restore adult and vocational education programs; the Specter Amendment which added back $500 million to restore most of the President's proposed education cuts; and the Salazar/Conrad Amendment which added $29 million for rural education. The Smith/ Bingaman Amendment restored the $15 billion in cuts to the Medicaid program. Now that both chambers have passed their bills, a conference committee will be named to reconcile the differences in the two bills and develop a final Budget Resolution.
Reauthorization of the Carl Perkins Vocational And Technical Education Act. Congress continues to support vocational education, despite the President's proposal to eliminate it. On March 9, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce marked up their bill, The Vocational and Technical Education for the Future Act (H.R. 366). The full House was expected to act on it after the Easter Break. On March 9, the Senate HELP Committee marked up the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2005 (S. 250) which passed the Senate on March 10.
Reauthorization of WIA, the Workforce Investment Act. On January 4, the 21st Century Competitiveness Subcommittee of the House Education and the Workforce Committee introduced the Job Training Improvement Act of 2005 (H.R. 27), to reauthorize the WIA. On February 16, the full committee marked up the bill which was passed by the full House on March 2. The Senate will probably pull the WIA provisions out of S. 9, The Lifetime of Educational Opportunities Act of 2005, and give it a new number in mid-late April.
Reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).On March 25, President Bush signed HR 1160 which temporarily extends the authorization for welfare programs through June 30. On March 17, Senator Grassley of the Finance Committee introduced the Personal Responsibility and Individual Development for Everyone Act (PRIDE, S. 667) to reauthorize the welfare reform act. Related free standing bills are the "Pathways to Independence Act of 2005, (S. 456) which would allow states to use TANF funds to provide assistance to TANF recipients who are participating in post secondary education and Pathways to Self-Sufficiency Act of 2005 (S. 458) which would allow states to count certain rehabilitation services for individuals with disabilities and treatment for substance abuse towards required work activities. In the House, the Ways and Means Committee and the Education and the Workforce Committee are expected to mark up a bill (H.R. 240) in April. It would likely be on the floor shortly thereafter.
Reauthorization of The Higher Education Act. On February 2, the House Education and the Workforce Committee introduced The College Access and Opportunity Act (H.R. 507). Chairman Boehner said that the bill would have to be "revenue neutral," meaning proposals to increase spending would have to be offset by savings.
Graduation for All Act (H.R. 547). On February 2, Representative Hinojosa (D-TX) reintroduced the Graduation for All Act which would provide funds to a) hire and train literacy coaches, b) provide individual counseling to students at risk of not graduating on time, c) adapt curricula to teach reading within all content areas and d) train all teachers to address literacy skills.
Clear Skies Act (S. 131). On January 25, Senator James Inhofe reintroduced the controversial Clear Skies Act, which would which would weaken emissions standards for three major pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. A scheduled February 17 vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was postponed because there were not enough votes to send the bill to the full Senate.
Second Chance Act. On February 8, Representative Charles Rangel introduced the Second Chance Act (H.R. 662) which would allow an individual convicted of a nonviolent criminal offence to have his/her records expunged.
EXECUTIVE BRANCHPRESIDENT BUSH'S SOCIAL SECURITY INITIATIVE
The disability community is concerned about the impact of the President's Social Security Reform proposals. Retirement and disability benefits are calculated using the same formula. In 2001, the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office, or GAO) found that every Social Security overhaul plan that included private accounts funded from the payroll tax would result in reduced benefits for people with disabilities. Figuring out how to preserve benefits for the disabled and survivors while diverting Social Security revenue into personal accounts proved so difficult that a commission appointed by Bush to write private accounts plans in 2001 did not even try because its six-month term did not allow enough time to solve the problem. "Because of the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved, we recommend that the president address [disability insurance] through a separate policy development process," the panel wrote. There is no indication that the Administration has followed that advice in preparing its personal accounts plan.
Medicaid and Medicare are also issues which will be debated. The costs of Medicaid and Medicare are growing faster than Social Security spending. Funding for Medicaid is of concern not only for persons with disabilities who are eligible for services but also because Medicaid provides funding for Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT).
IDEA Regulations. LDA members spoke at several of the Department of Education's regional meetings seeking comments on regulations for the new IDEA. LDA also submitted written comments by the February 28 deadline.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be issued in late spring, followed by two months of public hearings in the summer. Final regulations are expected by December 3, 2005 (one year after signing of the bill).
No Child Left Behind - AYP. Margaret Spellings, new Secretary of Education, was quoted as saying that she "needed to learn more about the particular nuances" of the issue of the NCLB AYP requirements for students who perform several grade levels below their peer group. She has also expressed strong support for the President's High School Initiative.
Restructuring of the Department. On February 25, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced a major restructuring of the Department of Education. This involves combining all elementary and secondary education programs, including the Offices of Elementary and Secondary Education (currently headed by Ray Simon); Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (currently headed by John Hager); Innovation and Improvement; English Language Acquisition; and Safe and Drug Free Schools into an Office to be headed by the Deputy Secretary. All postsecondary and adult programs, including the Offices of Postsecondary Education, Vocational and Adult Education, and Federal Student Aid, would be under the Under Secretary. Assistant Secretaries will be named to head 1) a new Office of Communications and Outreach, combining the Offices of Public Affairs and Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs and 2) a new Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development integrating budgetary functions and accountability services.
On Tuesday, March 1. OSEP Director Stephanie Lee resigned.
Raising the AYP cap for students with disabilities. A task force has been appointed to develop guidelines for increasing the percentage of students with disabilities whose alternate assessment scores count towards AYP (adequate yearly progress) from 1 percent to a maximum of 3 percent. A number of states have already requested that the 1 percent cap be raised.
Part of the problem arises because No Child Left Behind does not allow for out-of-level testing. As a result, there is no way to document whether or not students with disabilities who are accessing the curriculum at a level below their chronological age are making adequate yearly progress. Parents and advocates expressed concern that raising the cap would reduce accountability for the progress of students with disabilities.
John H. Hager, Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), U.S. Department of Education announced the schedule for a series of public meetings to receive comments on the proposed rules to implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004.
The proposed rules will be issued sometime this Spring. The hearings will take place at 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM and 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Specifics will be published in the Federal Register.
LDA: News from Washington is a monthly publication of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, Inc. Written by LDA's Washington Representative, Justine Maloney; Jane Browning, Editor. LDA members wishing to be added to the mailing list may contact LDA.
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