Due the COVID-19 virus, all Maryland Public Schools are closed until further notice and instruction is planned to move to a distance learning format. This will look different in each school district. Click here to learn more.
The US Department of Education held a stakeholders conference call on March 20th and explained current guidance and plans for future guidance on students with disabilities and technical assistance for distance learning for State education agencies. To read a summary of the conference call CLICK HERE.
BEST PRACTICES & FUNDING. Many states are implementing Individualized Continuity of Learning Plans for students with disabilities. It is imperative that states have a “game plan” that can help them address all components of IDEA and Section 504, including the pre-evaluation framework commonly referred to as “Response to Intervention.” Decoding Dyslexia Maryland and other state chapters have asked that Congress direct the U.S. Department of Education to enlist and fund national centers, experts and parents to create “Best Practices to Deliver Special Education During Extended School Closures.”
"RESTORATIVE" SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICE PLANS & FUNDING. A school closure can cause students with disabilities to regress academically, socially and emotionally. Decoding Dyslexia Maryland in a joint letter with 33 Decoding Dyslexia states, requested that Congress direct the U.S. Department of Education to develop guidance on how to develop Restorative Service Plans for special education students with academic and behavioral gaps caused by extended school closures (“COVID-19-slide”) and provide grant funding for Restorative Service Plans to states.
Secretary DeVos Announces no waivers for special education are needed
DUE TO ADVOCACY EFFORTS, SECRETARY DEVOS REJECTS REQUESTS FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION WAIVERS
What is Needed? Restorative Service Plans, Funding & Best Practice Guidance
The recently passed CARES Act (see below) includes a provision that requires the Department of Education to submit a report to Congress within 30 days of passage, indicating which waivers may be needed to help states and districts comply with IDEA. On April 27, the Secretary announced that no waivers were needed to comply with federal requirements and that states should continue to uphold the law and provide special education to students. See Full Report
Organizations that represent school psychologists, special education administrators and others are asking for extensive and unnecessary waivers. Although it may sound reasonable to ask for extensions because of the COVID-19 circumstances, current law already provides a great deal of flexibility for states and districts IF they choose to use it.
Decoding Dyslexia sent a letter to Secretary DeVos recommending that current law be used and asked the Department to provide additional guidance to states on best practices for Continuation of learning Plans.
DDMD Letters to Congress & Sec. DeVos Opposing Waivers to Special Education Law
Maryland State Department of Education Announces that all Schools Will Continue to Educate Students
In a statement released on March 25, Dr. Karen Salmon announced all students would receive instruction including students with disabilities. For the full statement and a look at what each school district is doing to continue instruction, please visit the CONTINUATION OF INSTRUCTION PAGE.
Tracking waiver requests to the US Dept. of Education here.
DD parent advocates strongly recommended to Sec. DeVos and Congress that waivers were not needed and states including Maryland were continuing to act within the current law's flexibilities to serve students with disabilities.
Advocates instead suggested that Sec. DeVos and Congress focus efforts on using existing national centers to develop best practices to deliver special education services during a pandemic and to fund state efforts to cover the costs of forthcoming "restorative" education, including extended school year, which may be needed once education resumes in school buildings.
DDMD and other Decoding Dyslexia state chapters also signed a joint letter with the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) opposing waivers and asking for restorative services.
Efforts by disability advocates and parents were successful at stopping waivers and now the focus will return to how to help students with disabilities continue to learn during school closures related to the pandemic.
UPDATE: SB 3548 passed Congress and provides $30.75 billion to states to support public schools and institutions of higher education.
$13.5 billion for elementary and secondary education to use for planning and coordinating during long-term school closures and purchasing educational technology to support online learning for all students.
$3 billion for Governors in each state to allocate, at their discretion, emergency support to school districts and institutions of higher education most significantly impacted by coronavirus.
$14.250 billion for institutions of higher education to be used to defray expenses such as lost revenue, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, and grants to students for food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care.
$750 million for Head Start programs to help respond to coronavirus related needs of children and families, including making up for lost learning time.
Education Provisions in the CARES Act When it comes to education, the bill allows the Secretary of Education to waive provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Higher Education Act (HEA), and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Specifically, states can apply to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to waive federal requirements under ESSA such as the requirement to administer state assessments, provide educator training in person, and the limits on funding spent on technology for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Institutions of higher education also have increased flexibility to provide education virtually.
Regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the bill does not provide waiver authority to the Secretary of Education, but does require ED to submit a report to Congress within 30 days indicating which waivers may be needed to help states and districts comply with IDEA.
Stand by for more information on possible action steps. There are certain components and requirements that should not be waived in IDEA and ESSA.
Prior Action on CARES Act (COVID-19 Emergency Aid)
"After passing a bill earlier this week and taking preliminary steps to help our nation amidst the coronavirus crisis, Congress is hard at work on a third package. This time, it includes changes to federal education laws that have NCLD and our fellow advocates very concerned. And it falls far short of the provisions the disability community needs and deserves during this pandemic. The bill released by Senator McConnell on Thursday evening — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — drastically expands the Secretary of Education’s authority to allow states to ignore civil rights provided under federal education laws, including
the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA);
the Higher Education Act; and
the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.
Though the CARES Act does not include a waiver of requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it does direct the Secretary to provide Congress (within 30 days) with a list of the waivers that will be needed for states to implement IDEA."
If you are concerned about your child's rights, please take action and contact your Senator ASAP! You can also contact your US Representative and make them aware of the Senate's actions.
Special education advocates and attorneys concerned about student access to learning and protection of students' disability rights sent a letter to the Maryland State Superintendent asking that a plan be developed that takes into consideration the needs of SWD and their right to a free and appropriate public education.
Letter to Prince George's County Public Schools, Prince George's County Education Advocates