Heading to the Hilton in Lisle to set up for the Convention. Hope to see you there!
Major Event Last Week
Education – Bipartisan ESEA Reauthorization Bill Passed by Senate Committee;
Includes Many Improvements for Students with Disabilities
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously
passed a reauthorization bill for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
on April 16. The bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015, was introduced by
the Committee Chairman and Ranking Members, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
and Patty Murray (D-WA), to overhaul the last ESEA reauthorization (also known as No
Child Left Behind). During the markup, the Committee considered 57 amendments
and approved 29 of them.
The ECAA reduces the federal role in school accountability, but allows the Department
of Education to put some conditions on the states. It would prohibit the Education
Department from endorsing or prescribing curriculum, including the Common Core State
Standards. The ECAA also would allow, but not require, states to use teacher
evaluation systems. The Arc is pleased that the ECAA voted out of committee includes
a number of provisions that will benefit students with disabilities, including:
Allowing only up to 1% of all students – those who have the most significant
cognitive disabilities – to take an Alternate Assessment based on Alternate
Achievement Standards (AA-AAS).
Ensuring that students in every state who take the AA-AAS are not precluded from
attempting to complete the requirements for a regular diploma;
Maintaining annual assessments of all students in grades 3-8 and once in high
school for reading and math;
Including all students with disabilities in state and district-level assessments;
Strengthening parental involvement in the decision about whether their child will
take an alternate assessment;
Providing support to states and school districts to ensure that teachers have the
skills and knowledge necessary to instruct diverse learners;
Including the “parent right to know” provision, requiring that parents be informed
that they may request information regarding qualifications of the student’s
classroom teacher; and
Asking school districts to describe their plans for limiting the use of restraint and
The approved bill will now go to the Senate floor for additional debate and amendments
before a vote by the full Senate.
Health Care – Congress Adjusts Medicare Reimbursement
The Senate overwhelmingly approved a permanent fix to the reimbursement rates for
Medicare providers, sending the measure to be signed by President Obama. If Congress
had not acted, Medicare health care providers faced a 21% cut to their reimbursement.
In addition to permanently fixing the reimbursement problem, the legislation extends the
Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years, and extends the therapy cap
exceptions process. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) offered an amendment to eliminate the
therapy caps. The amendment failed by two votes to reach the 60 vote threshold needed
to be included in the legislation. The bill also permanently extends the Qualified Individual
(QI) program under the Medicare program, which helps low-income Medicare beneficiaries
pay for premiums and permanently extends the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA)
program, which helps families on Medicaid maintain their coverage for one year as they
transition from welfare to work.
Employment – Notice of Proposed Rule Making
Last week, the anticipated Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), as related to
implementation of the changes to the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program contained in
the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, were posted in the Federal Register. Two
different NPRMs apply to the VR program, the first related to program changes in several
areas, can be accessed here. The second, related to State Supported Employment
Services Program, and Limitations on the Use of Subminimum Wage can be found here.
Public comments are due June 15, 2015. Comments can be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by US Postal Service to: Janet LaBreck, U.S. Department of
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW., Room 5086 Potomac Center Plaza (PCP),
Washington, DC 20202-2800.
Employment – Department of Labor Announces Disability Employment Initiative
Grants For Individuals with Disabilities Seeking Employment
Last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced $15 million in Disability Employment
Initiative grants to assist youth and adults with disabilities seeking employment. The
Disability Employment Initiative is a joint program of the Labor Department’s Employment
and Training Administration and the Office of Disability Employment Policy. DOL anticipates
awarding eight grants — ranging from $1.5 to $2.5 million — to be spent in a 42 month
period. Funding will be provided to at least one project for each of the following three target
populations: adults with disabilities (ages 18 and older); youth with disabilities (ages 14-24);
and individuals with significant disabilities (ages 14 and older). Workforce agencies
interested in applying for this funding should visit http://www.grants.gov. The deadline to
apply is June 11, 2015.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423