For those who did not have the chance to tune in, NCLD held an informational webinar on February 20, 2013 to inform parents like you of the changes that this year’s Congress will bring, how these changes will impact students with learning disabilities (LD), and how you can help ensure that your child will receive anequal, high-quality education. The 113th Congress will continue to work on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind. Workforce issues and federal job training programs will be a particular focus this year, and of course, balancing the 2013 federal budget is a issue at the top of the Congressional priority list.
In previous years, Congress has failed to reauthorize ESEA, and it is likely new bills will be introduced this year in the House and Senate. As the ESEA discussion continues, Congress must consider the waivers that the US Department of Education has granted to 34 states and the District of Columbia. The state waivers are problematic for students with LD for many reasons. Many state waivers focus reforms only on the bottom 5% of schools, ignoring the schools that are not classified as “failing” yet have large numbers of struggling students. Additionally, some states’ waiver plans fail to spell out how they will help students with LD meet new state learning standards.
Another area of policy focus for the 113th Congress is improving opportunities for young adults who do not pursue secondary education. Two policies would help these young people gain experience in the workforce and receive technical education.
The first policy, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), contains the bulk of the nation’s laws on job training. This policy is pivotal for the LD population as it includes regulations of the Rehabilitation Act, mandating that training and support for adults with disabilities is provided. The House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing to mark-up WIA on March 6, 2013. The Senate will likely propose a WIA bill later this year. NCLD secured language in the House and Senate WIA bills.
The second policy related to workforce development, The Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, is intended to support programs for students age 16 and up to get the knowledge and skills they need from their local community college for continued education or employment/career. The Perkins Act is due to be reauthorized, therefore, Congress is discussing it; however, nothing has been introduced.
Finally, you have probably heard a lot of information about sequestration or budget cuts. These cuts went into effect on March 1, 2013. It has been estimated that 5% of all education programs will be cut this year. These cuts will hurt kids with LD, affecting things like funding for special education services, Title I services for low-income students, and Head Start. We hope Congress will reconsider these cuts.
How can you stay updated and take action on these important issues? Sign up for NCLD’s LD Action list and receive action alerts to make your voice heard and stand up for kids with LD.