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Department of Education Releases New Discipline Guidance for Students with Disabilities

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Time is winding down in Congress as Members prepare for the summer recess. While there is always much to be done- we don’t expect much movement on FY2023 appropriations until the fall.  As always, your voice at the table is imperative to ensuring investments in the special educator and specialized instructional support personnel workforce remain at the forefront.

U.S. Department of Education Releases New Discipline Guidance

This week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services along with the Office of Civil Rights released new guidance surrounding disciplinary practices targeting students with disabilities. According to the Department, the goal of the guidance is to help schools fulfill their responsibilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities and avoid the discriminatory use of student discipline. “We urge [state and local education agencies] to redouble efforts to fulfill their obligations under IDEA,” wrote Valerie C. Williams, the department’s special education program office director, in a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools on Tuesday. “These efforts will, in turn, help reduce the number of children with disabilities subjected to exclusionary discipline, including the frequency and duration of such practices.”

“All students deserve to have their rights protected, and schools deserve greater clarity on how they can avoid the discriminatory use of discipline, ” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Too often, students with disabilities face harsh and exclusionary disciplinary action at school. The guidance we’re releasing today will help ensure that students with disabilities are treated fairly and have access to supports and services to meet their needs – including their disability-based behavior. We also expect that districts utilize the federal American Rescue Plan dollars to build capacity, provide professional learning opportunities for educators and school leaders, and hire additional staff. These resources will also help schools live up to their legal obligations, support an equitable recovery for all our students, and make sure that students with disabilities get the behavioral supports and special education services they need to thrive.”

The new resources include the following:

More information about the Department’s efforts to assist schools in fostering nondiscriminatory and safe learning environments is available here.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Cardona Embark on Multi- State Tour

This week, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Cardona embarked on a multi-state tour highlighting American Rescue Plan Funded summer learning and enrichment programs. The two visited programs in Connecticut, Michigan, and Georgia.

One of the stops highlighted the Detroit Public Schools Community District summer learning program, held at Schulze Academy for Technology and Arts in Detroit, MI. The program serves students in kindergarten through 8th grade with a focus on enrichment opportunities in STEM and STEAM programming, arts, coding and cooking.  Because of ARP ESSER funds, public schools in Detroit, MI have been able to double the number of students in summer school this year. Detroit, MI received over $800 million in ARP ESSER funds, and the state overall received over $3.7 billion in ARP ESSER funds. The state and school districts are anticipated to spend at least $925 million dollars on academic recovery, including through summer programming

In a statement, the Department of Education noted that Dr. Biden and Secretary Cardona’s tour is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader commitment to addressing lost instructional time due to the pandemic and ensuring students have the mental health supports they need.

In the States: Florida School District Rejects Proposed Textbooks

This week, Miami-Dade County School District- the nation’s fourth largest school district- rejected  two proposed textbooks over concerns they violate Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill- also referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The decision came down to a 5-4 school board vote and represents one of the first major instances that the recently passed measure can shape local school policies. “Teachers that will be providing this material to children, which is illegal in the state of Florida, and the board that votes to adopt this, in the end — the country, the state and your community, will consider all of you groomers,” speaker Lourdes Galban, told the school board during public comment.

The decision puts the school district in a precarious situation by leaving the district without an approved sex education curriculum for its middle and high school students with the start of the school year just one month away.

New Resources for Educators

  • Ed Trust released the “National Black Student Debt Study”- the study notes that 64 percent of survey participants reported student debt negatively impacted their mental health.

  • Student Borrower Protection Center released a new analysis of federal data on Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), finding that the number of borrowers submitting paperwork for the program more than doubled since the waiver was announced.

  • NWEA released its latest round of data focusing on student academic achievement.

Until next time, see you on Twitter! Kait @brennan_kait

Do you have a question about Washington Update? Want more information? Have a story about what is happening in your state? Email me, lets get virtual coffee: kaitlynbrennan88@gmail.com

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