Capitol Insider

Major Event Ahead

Education – Senate hearing scheduled on ESSA implementation

On February 23, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  This law, which was enacted at the end of 2015, reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which governs general education in our nation’s public schools.  ESSA devolves much authority back to the states.  Disability advocates are urged to actively participate in its implementation in their states as most students with disabilities spend the majority of their instructional time in the general education settings.  Visit the Committee web site to learn more and to watch a live webcast the day of the hearing.

Major Recent Events

Education – House Subcommittee holds hearing on ESSA implementation

On February 10, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing on “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Implementing the Promise to Restore State and Local Control.” Selene Almazan, legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and the parent of two children with disabilities, was one of four panelists who testified.  She urged robust and thoughtful implementation of ESSA over the next decade to ensure the law’s purpose “to provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.”  Visit the Committee web site to read testimony and watch archived video of the hearing.

Autism – Federal panel determines evidence is insufficient for universal ASD screening

Last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a final recommendation statement on “Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Young Children.”  The USPTF concluded that evidence is insufficient to recommend that all children be screened for autism, stating that “…the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in young children for whom no concerns of ASD have been raised by their parents or a clinician.”  The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine convened by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  The Arc and several other disability organizations submitted comments last year on the USPSTF’s draft recommendation.  We expressed support for guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics that call for continuous developmental surveillance and for specific autism screening at 18 months, 24 months, and whenever a parent or provider expresses concern.

The Arc is concerned that the USPSTF final recommendation statement could be used by insurance companies to discontinue reimbursement to physicians for screening work, despite the availability of free brief evidence-based screening tools.  Visit the USPSTF web site to view its final recommendation.

Rights/Transportation – Greyhound enters into settlement over alleged ADA violations

Greyhound Lines Inc. has entered into a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including failure to maintain lifts and other accessibility features, failure to assist passengers with disabilities getting on and off the bus, and refusing travel reservations made by people with disabilities.  The settlement includes a $75,000 fine and $300,000 in compensation to passengers.  Additionally, Greyhound has agreed to improve its online booking system and conduct mandatory ADA training.

Rights – Funeral Service Held for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; Death Leaves Vacancy on the Court

On February 20 a funeral service was held for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  Justice Scalia is mourned by the nation and The Arc. Justice Scalia served on the Supreme Court for nearly 30 years and his death leaves the Court with only eight Justices, rather than nine.  The process for appointing a new Justice is clear in the Constitution.  The “Appointments Clause” (Article II, Section 2, clause 2) states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court.”

Issues important to people with disabilities often come before the U.S. Supreme Court.  They span such important concerns as rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the right to fair, non-discriminatory treatment in health care settings, and the death penalty.  In fact, The Arc has submitted an amicus brief in a death penalty case, Ortiz v. United States, involving an individual with intellectual disability, in which the Court has not yet decided whether to hear arguments.  Due to the Supreme Court’s important role as final decision maker in cases involving laws of Congress and interpreting the Constitution, it is important that the Court be fully functioning.  The Arc will be observing the appointment and confirmation process with great interest.

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Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)