Skip to main content

Washington Update, March 7, 2024

Dear Colleagues:

This week, Congress's successful passage of a stopgap funding bill is highlighted, averting a government shutdown and allowing for ongoing negotiations on spending bills. The Department of Education's efforts to enhance disability rights in education are then detailed, including the release of new resources and data collection initiatives. Senator Cassidy's advocacy for evidence-based solutions to address declining child literacy post-COVID-19 is discussed, emphasizing the urgent need for improved reading instruction nationwide. Finally, the U.S. Department of Education's guidance for Title I programs is examined, aiming to expand preschool access and support vulnerable student populations. It’s State of the Union Week folks, let’s get to it…

1. Congress Passes Stopgap Funding Bill …Again…Averting Shutdown; Focus Turns to Finalizing Spending Bills

The Senate successfully passed a stopgap funding bill on Thursday night, averting a partial government shutdown that was scheduled for Saturday and granting more time for finalizing half a dozen spending bills slated for passage this week. Congressional leaders have until March 8 to clear the initial six-bill bundle, with negotiations ongoing to fund the remaining government sectors, including the military and major domestic programs such as education funding, by March 22. The Senate's 77-13 vote on the measure followed the defeat of four Republican amendments. Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray indicated that bill text for the six finalized bills would be released soon to allow for thorough review before the upcoming vote. With optimism among appropriators that this fourth stopgap will provide sufficient time to conclude funding negotiations, attention now turns to passing the remaining six bills, which will pose a greater challenge in achieving bipartisan compromise. And so it continues…stay tuned

2. OCR Launches New Resources Addressing Disability Rights in Education

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launched four new resources aimed to address civil rights for students with disabilities, accompanied by a data snapshot from OCR's 2020-21 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) focusing on education access. The resources are aimed at educating students, parents, and schools about their rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities in federally funded institutions, including most public schools and higher education institutions. Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon emphasized that these resources are designed to empower students with disabilities, along with their families and schools, by providing vital tools to comprehend their protections under federal disability rights laws. The new CRDC data snapshot revealed that 8.4 million students with disabilities accounted for 17% of public school enrollment in the 2020-21 school year, with 1.6 million receiving educational services under Section 504 exclusively. Furthermore, according to the Department's National Center for Education Statistics, students with disabilities represented 21% of undergraduates and 11% of postbaccalaureate students in the 2019-20 school year. These resources, covering conditions like asthma, diabetes, food allergies, and GERD, are now accessible on the OCR website, while the CRDC disability snapshot and other data reports can be found on the CRDC website. You can read more and find all of the resources here.

3.Senator Cassidy Urges Evidence-Based Solutions Post-COVID-19

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, released a report on declining child literacy in the U.S. post-COVID-19 pandemic, citing concerning results from the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Ranking Member Cassidy emphasized the detrimental effects of declining literacy on high school dropout rates, incarceration rates, economic competitiveness, and military preparedness.

Senator Cassidy called for feedback from stakeholders to improve reading instruction and develop legislative solutions to enhance child literacy nationwide

The report and a list of guiding questions for feedback, included those focused-on teacher preparation, are available here.

4. Department of Education Provides Guidance for Title I Programs

The U.S. Department of Education published non-regulatory guidance aligning current Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) regulations with existing guidance, offering ways for state and local education authorities to expand preschool programs supported by Title I. The guidance clarifies that children with disabilities are eligible for participation, allowing local education authorities to prioritize needs in instances of limited funding, such as for English learners, homeless children, children in foster care, or children with disabilities. The guidance also emphasizes the inclusion of parents, including those with disabilities, in family engagement requirements, and provides options for Title I eligible children in need who do not qualify for Head Start or lack sufficient Head Start resources. LEAs may access Medicaid-covered health and medical services for Medicaid-enrolled children with disabilities.

The full report and guidance are available here.

We have a busy few days ahead- State of the Union on Thursday and we expect the President’s FY 25 budget to be released on Monday (and yes you’re following , we still don’t have an FY24 budget but you can expect a breakdown of the 25 proposal in your inbox next week) …I hope you are as excited as I am ;)

Until next time, see you on X (formerly Twitter)



Posted:  7 March, 2024
dr kaitlyn brennan
Author: Dr. Kaitlyn Brennan

Dr. Kaitlyn Brennan serves as education policy advisor to TED, providing strategic support to activate TED members in support of federal policy which best meets the needs of students with disabilities...

Read more from Dr. Kaitlyn Brennan

© 2023 Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). All rights reserved.