Recent Major Events
Health Care – The Arc Joins Amicus Brief in Affordable Care Act Case before U.S. Supreme Court
The Arc joined several other advocacy and consumer organizations in filing an amicus
(“friend of the court”) brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The amicus
brief argues that a law requiring health insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions cannot function unless it also requires nearly everyone to carry insurance. This is because, if allowed, people will delay the purchase of insurance until they need expensive care, thereby draining the insurance plan of funds without paying their share (known as “adverse selection”). Seven states have already tried to enact a preexisting conditions law without a minimum coverage requirement and all seven states saw skyrocketing premiums or worse; while Massachusetts, the one state to do both, saw its premiums go down 40 percent. See The Arc’s statement on submission of the amicus brief .
Oral arguments are scheduled for late March. Since the Supreme Court will be addressing several issues regarding the ACA, briefs on additional issues are due at different times over the next month.
Education – Elementary and Secondary Education reauthorization
Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, introduced two draft bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bills would dismantle the current school accountability system and mandate teacher evaluations based in part on student outcomes. His bills, the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, also would:
· significantly reduce federal intervention in low-performing schools,
· eliminate the federal School Improvement Grants to help poor schools improve, and
· leave intervention strategies up to the states.
Chairman Kline appears to be taking a more comprehensive look at ESEA rather than the piecemeal process the House had been taking.
On the Senate side, the HELP committee approved a bi-partisan 800+-page overhaul of the ESEA. The Senate bill would also scrap the current accountability system but does not mandate teacher evaluations (a compromise necessary to move the bill). It does keep in place some federal intervention in the worst performing schools.
Both the Senate and House bills would eliminate adequate yearly progress (AYP), which is the current accountability system that requires all students to be on grade level in reading and math by 2014. The Senate bill would require schools to adopt standards that prepare students to be college or career ready; the House bill supports the goal of preparing students for college and careers but would bar the Secretary of Education from encouraging states to develop more uniform, rigorous standards. Differences include:
· requiring teachers to be highly qualified – the Senate would retain that requirement while the House would abolish it;
· the Senate bill would require interventions in the bottom 5% of schools while the House bill does not specify a percentage nor would it require specific interventions;
· the House bill would provide schools with funding flexibility and eliminate the maintenance of effort requirement, which requires states and school districts to keep up their funding at certain levels in order to get federal funding.
The current ESEA/NCLB holds schools accountable for the performance of students with disabilities. The Arc will monitor both the Senate and House bills to ensure that the protections for students with disabilities are not lost.
It is doubtful that ESEA will be reauthorized in 2012 and until that happens, the Dept of Education will continue offering states a process for obtaining waivers from the accountability measures. 39 states have expressed interest in applying for a waiver. (Information about ESEA waivers is on www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility)
Education – Senator Harkin’s Keeping All Students Safe Act
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act, S. 2020, right before the holiday break. The bill is a companion to the House bill, HR 1381, that was introduced last year by Rep. George Miller (D-CA). Both bills would prohibit use of mechanical restraints, chemical restraints, or physical restraints that restrict breathing. The use of seclusion or restraint could not be included in a student’s IEP. Physical restraint would be allowed only in emergency situations and would require debriefing sessions with parents and staff. S 2020 has no sponsors at this time; HR 1381 has 28 co-sponsors, one of whom is a Republican. Senator Harkin is seeking bipartisan support.
Education – No Child Left Behind Waivers in Minnesota and Florida
Peer reviewers for the Department of Education who are reviewing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver applications from 11 states sent responses to Florida and Minnesota. Reviewers pointed out weaknesses and asked for more information. The reviewers’ concerns in Florida included questions about how the state was planning to address the needs of subgroups, particularly English Learners and students with disabilities and how the achievement of students with disabilities would be fully included in how schools are rated. The reviewers asked Minnesota to provide more information on professional development related to the needs of students with disabilities and English Learners and to address concerns regarding targeting supports and interventions to students with disabilities and English Learners and the lack of focus on improving content instruction for them. The letters to the states have not been posted to the Department’s web site. They were accessed on the Education Week News blog.
Major Events Ahead
Long Term Services and Supports – House Committee to markup CLASS repeal bill
On January 18, 2012, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to markup a bill to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, H.R. 1173. In October, 2011, the Administration announced that it was halting implementation of the CLASS program due to problems it believes must be resolved before implementation can move forward. Some Members of Congress are using the Administration’s action to call for a full repeal of the CLASS Act rather than looking to make needed changes.
The CLASS program was created to help working adults prepare for their future in the event they need help maintaining independence in the community. It was also intended to take the pressure off Medicaid, so that Medicaid can better serve the needs of people with disabilities and low income communities. Without a program like CLASS, the Medicaid program will continue to take on the load of long term service needs for many Americans, who will be forced into a lifetime of poverty to qualify for this assistance.
The Arc will continue to support the CLASS program and has urged that Members of Congress reform, rather than repeal, the program. The Arc is concerned that repealing the CLASS Act would result in Congress ignoring the crisis in long term services and supports.
Social Security – House to hold hearing on Disability Waste, Fraud, and Abuse
On Tuesday, January 24th the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on “combating disability waste, fraud, and abuse.” The hearing will focus on the Social Security Administration’s efforts to minimize improper payments and protect taxpayers’ dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse. This will be the second hearing in a series on “Securing the Future of the Social Security Disability Insurance Program.” Live and archived video of the hearing will be available on the Committee web site.
Register Now for the 2012 Disability Policy Seminar
Make your plans to attend the 2012 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. April 23-25 and take advantage of special early registration and hotel rates until March 20. This event is the biggest and best opportunity for advocates to advance the grassroots movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But this year it is even more important to make your mark in Washington as we approach a pivotal presidential election in November. This unique platform offers you the opportunity to come together with other advocates, learn about the issues, and speak with your elected officials about what is important to you. Get the best rates and availability for the event at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, D.C. and find out more about this year’s program at www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org.
Employment – First Federal Agency Signs an Alliance with Office of Disability Employment Policy
The Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has signed its first federal agency alliance, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection. The alliance is intended to increase the agency’s hiring of people with disabilities, in accordance with Executive Order 13548. ODEP’s Alliance Initiative, begun in 2006, enables organizations committed to improving disability workplace practices to work with ODEP to develop and implement model policies and initiatives that increase recruiting, hiring, advancing, and retaining employees with disabilities. Click here to learn more.