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Special Education Equity in the Era of COVID-19

AACTE Responds to COVID-19

Disabled pupil smiling at camera in classroom

With the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19), school districts, institutions of higher education, and educators are finding themselves in uncharted territory. As schools across the nation are forced to shut their doors, finding ways to best serve all students equitably has never been more urgent. This is especially true for our most vulnerable students—those with disabilities.

COVID-19 hit hard and fast. And with that, so did the shift from in-school instruction to online learning. We know that special education students receive, consume, and apply information differently in face-to-face settings versus online environments. However, the rapid onset of COVID-19 did not give educators, parents, or students time to adequately prepare for the transition.

Next Step for Education Funding in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

AACTE Responds to COVID-19

This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Implementation of CARES Act – Third COVID Relief Package

The Administration is moving to implement the massive $2 trillion COVID response bill (known now as COVID-3) which was enacted on Friday, March 27 . For education, this means $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund that includes:

  • $13.5 billion for elementary and secondary education (can be used for any activity authorized under major education laws including ESSA, IDEA, CTE and Homeless Education)
  • $14.25 billion for higher education; At least 50% is for emergency financial aid to students and expense related to the pandemic
  • $3 billion for governors to be used for emergency grants for the most affected local education agencies, institutions of higher education and those deemed essential to providing childcare, early childhood, K-12 or higher education services

AACTE Recommendation to Support PK-12 Students with Disabilities During COVID-19

AACTE Responds to COVID-19

Disabled schoolboy on wheelchair using digital tablet in library

The following AACTE Statement was sent to the National Governors Association.

During the health emergency of COVID-19, AACTE is encouraging its members, as well as states and districts, to explore partnerships between district and educator preparation programs to address the increased workforce demands for special educators in our nation’s schools. In particular, we urge stakeholders to

Identify opportunities for special education teacher candidates to continue their contributions to educational opportunities for students with disabilities (e.g. clinical practice opportunities or paraprofessionals in temporary positions) for the duration of the impact of COVID-19 on our school system.

How Will COVID-19 Emergency Spending Bill Help Education?

AACTE Responds to COVID-19

This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Washington Continues to Respond to the Coronavirus Epidemic

The Congress and federal agencies are likewise making changes by the moment. A 50,000 foot overview includes the following.

Legislative activity 

  • On March 6, Congress passed the first COVID-19 stimulus bill – an $8 billion package to help states and localities address the pandemic.
  • On March 18, Congress passed the second COVID-19 relief package, which ensures paid sick leave to certain employees, expands SNAP and Medicaid, and provides emergency assistance.
  • Congress is now considering the third COVID-19 relief package, a measure which will total between one and two trillion dollars and may address issues as far reaching as increases in unemployment insurance payments, financial assistance for hospitals and health care providers, a “state stabilization fund,” direct cash payments of $1,200 per qualified person, small business guaranteed loans, and billions in loans for industries, such as airlines. Provisions related to education are also on the menu, as described in the next article.

Secretary DeVos Publishes New Resource on Accessibility and Distance Learning Options

U.S. Department of Education logoU.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today the Department has released new information clarifying that federal law should not be used to prevent schools from offering distance learning opportunities to all students, including students with disabilities. This new resource from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) explains that as a school district takes necessary steps to address the health, safety, and well-being of all its students and staff, educators can use distance learning opportunities to serve all students.

“It was extremely disappointing to hear that some school districts were using information from the Department of Education as an excuse not to educate kids,” said Secretary DeVos. “This is a time for creativity and an opportunity to pursue as much flexibility as possible so that learning continues. It is a time for all of us to pull together to do what’s right for our nation’s students.”

Podcasts: University of Washington Interviews Upcoming AACTE Annual Meeting Presenters

The articles below originally appeared on the University of Washington College of Education website and are reprinted with permission.

JoTeacher working with studentsining doctoral research and teacher education program improvement

While incorporating issues of equity and social justice in the preparation of future teachers has long been a focus at the University of Washington College of Education, it wasn’t well understood until recently how that commitment is reflected in graduates’ daily teaching practice. 

That picture is getting clearer thanks to an internship for UW doctoral students in teacher education launched three years ago. In a new podcast, Patrick Sexton, assistant dean for teacher education, and Cristina Betancourt, a graduate student in teaching and curriculum, discuss the College’s work to marry teacher education program improvement with the learning of its doctoral students through its Teacher Education Research and Inquiry (TERI) internship. 

Sexton and Betancourt are part of a team who will present their work developing case studies of recent alumni for program improvement at the 2020 meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. 

Read more.

Incorporating disability studies curriculum in teacher education

While Washington has recognized October as Disability History Month for more than a decade — and schools are asked to honor the month in some fashion — teachers have had limited resources available to help them actually enact disability studies curriculum in the classroom.

The President Recommends Big Cuts for Education: Will the Congress Agree?

A pair of scissors representing cuts in education concept

This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Bad News for Education in President Trump’s FY 2021 Budget Proposal

The FY 2021 appropriations process was officially launched with the release of the President’s budget proposal on Monday. The budget is thematically similar to previous Trump budgets, in that it calls for big spending cuts all around and proposes federal support for private schools in the form of a tax credit for donations to scholarship programs (called “Education Freedom Scholarships”). The proposal represents an overall 7.8% cut ($5.6 Billion) to the Department of Education.  Key features of the proposal include the following:

Elementary and Secondary Education

  • Twenty-nine K-12 grant programs will be consolidated into a single block grant (“Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant”) designed to provide maximum flexibility for state and local systems at $19.4 Billion – a $4.7 Billion cut from current spending.
  • The prized charter school grant program is consolidated into the block grant.
  • The big winner in the budget proposal is Career and Technical Education which is slated for $763 million increase.
  • Education Freedom Scholarships (tax credits for private schools) would cost $46 Billion over 10 years.
  • All IDEA programs are level funded; however, Part B of IDEA receives a $100 million increase.

CCSSO Updates Guide to Support Principals in Leading Inclusive Schools

Teacher interacting with schoolboy in classroom

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recently updated its Supporting Inclusive Schools for the Success of Each Child: A Guide for States on Principal Leadership guide. Developed in collaboration with AACTE and other education partners, this online guide strengthens principals’ capacity to lead inclusive schools to ensure each student has an equitable opportunity to succeed. The updates include additional resources and a new policy to practice section, showcasing the work of the four states—Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Ohio—involved in CCSSO’s Advancing Inclusive Principal Leadership (AIPL) State Initiative, of which AACTE is also a partner. The four states are refining their school leader preparation and development efforts to ensure there is a focus on supporting the academic and social and emotional success of each learner, with an emphasis on those with disabilities.

Turning the Table on the Special Education Teacher Crisis

Throughout the United States, schools are facing a critical shortage of special education teachers. This crisis is growing due to an emerging demand for special education teachers, coupled with a diminishing number of qualified candidates, recruitment challenges, and a high turnover rate. Reversing this crisis requires a multiprong approach that includes short- and long-term strategies to prepare and support teachers. Special education is complex, and one common type of instruction does not support all disabilities. To promote equity in education, we must ensure students with disabilities have access to proper assessment, resources, and qualified educators that correspond with their needs.

President Releases Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request

USA flag and American dollars. American flag blowing in the  wind and 100 dollars banknotes in the backgroundOn Monday, February 10, 2020, the President kicked off the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget process by making his budget request to the Congress. Generally released on the first Monday in February, the delay reflects the delay in completing the FY20 appropriations process, which concluded on December 20, 2019. With a divided Congress, we should expect the Administration’s highest priorities to emerge as the heads of agencies and departments testify before the subcommittees of jurisdiction on the Appropriations committees later this spring. We will then learn the priorities of the Democratic Caucus leading the U.S. House of Representatives and those of the Republican Caucus leading the U.S. Senate, as subcommittee bills are released and marked up.

For the U.S Department of Education (Department), the President’s Budget Request cut the agency’s funding by $6.1 billion, or 8.4% from Fiscal Year 2020 levels. The key initiatives in the President’s Budget Request include the following:

Education Freedom Scholarships

This program establishes a federal tax credit program for voluntary donations to state-designed scholarships for elementary and secondary students offered by state-identified 501c3 non-profit entities. While these scholarships have been proposed before, this FY21 request includes and expansion of the opportunities for students and families.

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