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2012 Election Learning Disabilities

 

Learning Disabilites - President Obama“It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try,” said President Obama in his election acceptance speech.

NCLD wants you to be informed on issues that could affect you and your child the next four years. Take a minute to review the “snapshots” below of education issues discussed by President Barack Obama that we know impact students with learning disabilities (LD). (Our information was gathered from public sources.) You can also review President Barack Obama's responses to the questionnaire NCLD sent to the 2012 presidential candidates’ campaigns. To learn more about other important LD issues, visit our Where We Stand page.


President Barack Obama on Education and Disability Issues
that Impact Students with Learning Disabilities (LD)

Issue President Barack Obama NCLD Position
Universal Preschool and Early Literacy Screening

One of President Obama’s education goals in 2008 was to create a voluntary, universal preschool program to help close the achievement gap before it starts.

NCLD supports the adoption of universal preschool development screening of young children’s early literacy skills through the adoption of a multi-tiered system of supports to understand preschooler strengths and needs for early intervention.

Why This Matters:

President Obama has proposed key early learning initiatives such as the Early Learning Challenge Grant which provides $500 million in state grants to improve early childhood education. While parents should be the deciders about early learning, having federal and state incentives to assure access to early learning helps more children learn and thrive and receive any early help they may need.

The top-line question for parents and grandparents: If you have a young child or grandchild who will be entering the education system during the next presidential term, do you have the options you need to provide them adequate early learning experiences?


Issue President Barack Obama NCLD Position
Charter Schools

President Obama is in favor of public school choice and actively promotes charter schools. He has called them “incubators of innovation” and has supported a National Charter School Week.

NCLD supports students with LD having the ability to attend charter schools on the same basis as other students as long as the charter school provides the same level (or better) of instruction and support that students are entitled to under IDEA or other laws (e.g., Section 504).

Why This Matters:

President Obama supports providing federal funding to states for charter schools, although not all states allow charter schools.

The top-line question for parents: Does your state allow charter schools? If so, all charters are required to follow federal disability laws, including IDEA and 504. If your state does not allow charters, President Obama wants to provide incentives and maintain existing programs to encourage your state to allow for charter schools in the future.

As with all schools, some individual charter schools are better than others. NCLD advises parents to find out if charter schools in your area are staffed and prepared to teach and support your child. Some charters aren’t equipped and while they are required to serve students with disabilities, they may not be able to really meet the educational needs of your child.


Issue President Barack Obama NCLD Position
Vouchers

President Obama is opposed to school voucher programs. Earlier this year, he announced he would not provide increased funds for Washington, D.C.’s voucher program and opposed its expansion. In the end, however, he did provide financing for an additional 85 students.

NCLD opposes private school voucher proposals if they jeopardize a student’s right to a free appropriate public education under the IDEA. Certain state voucher systems require that parents waive all access to such rights and there is little to no data showing whether these students are benefiting and achieving grade level standards.

Why This Matters:

President Obama does not support vouchers for private schools. NCLD believes that voucher funding tends to reduce resources to local schools that may already be struggling to meet student needs. In some rural and urban areas of the country there are often no other options beyond the local school, so a voucher system would not serve all students.


The top-line questions for parents
: If a voucher were offered to you to move your child out of your local public school, would you have access to the same or better services and supports? If your child has an IEP, would they lose their legal rights under IDEA if you accepted the voucher?


Issue President Barack Obama NCLD Position
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind

President Obama has granted waivers to 34 states and the District of Columbia, which frees states from ESEA’s accountability standards in reading and math. In exchange, states must evaluate teacher performance, adopt new accountability systems and target funds to the lowest performing schools.

NCLD supports updates to ESEA as long as they do not eliminate the focus on the achievement of all students. The updates must ensure states set progressive high school graduation targets and require that any group of struggling students (e.g., special education, minority group, poor) be provided the interventions and support they need to catch up to their peers.

Why This Matters:

ESEA is the main federal K-12 program providing funds to states to assure that more students achieve reading and math standards and schools are held accountable for this achievement. Under President Obama, the U.S. Department of Education has approved 35 waivers that went into effect this fall, altering the original intent of the law. While President Obama does not have a position that meets all of NCLD’s criteria for accountability for students with and at risk for LD, we know that he must continue to send a strong message that students struggling to meet state reading and math standards must get the intensive instruction, support, and interventions they need so they can have access to a better future. ESEA works in connection with IDEA to assure that basic literacy matters in assuring career training, college readiness, and access to a good job. If your state now has a waiver, your struggling child may not get the robust attention they need under the changed law.


The top-line question for parents
: If your state has received a waiver, how will it ensure that your child’s school will be held accountable for your child’s achievement toward grade level reading and math standards?


Issue President Barack Obama NCLD Position
Standardized Testing
(Assessment)

President Obama created and continues to advance the Race to the Top Assessment Program, which has provided another $330 million to consortiums of states that will allow states to create new assessments based on Common Core State Standards. His proposal to amend No Child Left Behind would maintain the frequency of existing testing requirements that requires annual testing in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

NCLD supports standardized testing, for accountability purposes (not for individual high-stake decisions). Any standardized test must be developed using principles of universal design so that all students have access to test items and can fully demonstrate what they know.

Why This Matters:

Most parents worry that schools may be doing too much testing! What NCLD recognizes, however, is that the students who get tested are also the students who get attention in the school. If your child isn’t included in standardized tests and/or their scores don’t count for the school in the state accountability system, then a lower standard and expectation is allowed for your student compared to their peers. This is unacceptable – especially if we want our children to learn, graduate high school and have access to careers, college, and work.

President Obama has indicated that some form of standardized testing will be required to receive federal education dollars. Our comments on President Obama’s approval of state waivers – which changes the nature of standardized testing under ESEA are stated in the ESEA section and can also be found here.


The top-line question for parents:
If your state has received an ESEA waiver, how will it ensure that high achievement standards are still in place for your child?


Issue President Barack Obama NCLD Position

 

College Funding and Affordability

President Obama signed increases in Pell Grants funded by a conversion from the private sector funded student loans to loans funded by federal capital. In addition, he created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a refundable credit that ensures that the first $4,000 of a college education is free. The President also passed legislation to collect monetary aid through public not private providers.

NCLD provides information about availability of federal financial aid via www.ld.org. We currently do not have a policy position on college funding and affordability

Why This Matters:

Today’s rapidly escalating costs make it necessary for most students to work while attending college, making college success an even greater challenge for students with LD. Too few students with LD are attending 2- and 4-year colleges, and rising costs are likely to impact these students even more than others. President Obama recently signed off on legislation that provides additional government funding and tax breaks for college. It’s not clear whether he plans additional initiatives. NCLD plans to be more involved in this debate in the future.


The top-line question for parents
: Will your child be attending college during the next presidential term?

 

Notes:

  • There is no current discussion about the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).