April 2022 Policy News: 5 Things to Know about the Appropriations Process

Federal investments in education funding are critical to the success of students with disabilities. This month, we break down the appropriations process and how NCLD has advocated on behalf of students with disabilities along the way.


1. The President’s budget request is a critical starting point, but there is a lot more to the process. 

At the end of last month, President Biden released his administration’s FY 2023 budget proposal, marking the start of the FY 2023 appropriations cycle. The budget request signals the Administration’s top priorities and the funding levels they propose to see their ambitions realized. This year, the President’s budget request proposed a significant $3.3 billion increase in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which NCLD and partners have applauded and shared broadly to convey the importance of this needed funding increase.

2. Advocacy is a crucial component. Members of Congress consider requests from constituents, advocacy organizations, and their peers. 

NCLD wrote to Members of Congress to express support for IDEA funding, funding for research on learning disabilities and special education, and other critical programs that support students with disabilities. In addition, we joined partners in coalitions such as the IDEA Full Funding Coalition to collectively advocate for the funding increases needed in our schools. 

In this period, Members of Congress also circulate “Dear Colleague” letters to show support for a given program and to enable fellow Members of Congress to sign on to show their support. For example, NCLD was glad to see Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA), chair of the House Dyslexia Caucus, circulate a Dear Colleague letter supporting learning disabilities research. The letter, which was co-signed by eleven other Members of Congress, prioritized funding for Learning Disabilities Research Centers and the National Center for Special Education Research.

Members of Congress also take requests from their own constituents! It’s not too late to advocate and show your support for IDEA and research funding! Click here to send a message to your Members of Congress. 

3. Total spending levels are determined through a process called budget resolution. 

Before the Appropriations Committees write their bills, the Budget Committee in the House and Senate must propose “budget resolutions”. The budget resolution sets top line spending levels and establishes guidance for revenue, spending, deficits and other budget-related issues. The budget resolution is a little different from other legislation in that it can pass with just a simple majority and does not need the president’s signature. The Senate also cannot filibuster these resolutions.

4. The House and Senate produce 12 subcommittee appropriations bills. NCLD follows the funding levels within the LHHS-ED bill. 

Next, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, through their 12 subcommittees, hold hearings to examine the budget requests and needs of federal spending programs. The House and Senate then produce appropriations bills to fund the federal government. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS-ED) bill specifies how much funding goes to programs under the U.S. Department of Education, Department of Labor (including the Office of Disability Employment Policy), and Department of Health and Human Services (including National Institutes of Health). For Fiscal Year 2022, an omnibus bill was passed, meaning that all funding bills were voted on in one package. The deadline to pass these bills is September 30, otherwise Congress must pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) which extends the previous year’s budget for a certain amount of time. If Congress fails to pass either the appropriations bills or a CR, the government shuts down. 

5. It’s not just about numbers. Report language accompanies each bill to provide more detailed guidance to departments and agencies. 

In addition to the amounts that are specified in an appropriation bill, a companion report is often created. Report language can be very important to make sure certain programs and projects get recognized, especially if they are not given a specific line item somewhere else in the budget. For example, Learning Disabilities Research Centers (LDRCs) are funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), within the NIH. This is the only federal funding for researchers who explore child development and learning disabilities, but it is NICHD’s responsibility and authority to allocate those funds to the research centers, not Congress. Last year, the House included report language about the significance of LDRCs to signal to NICHD it should sustain funding for this important research. NCLD hopes to see this report language used in the FY 2023 appropriations bill. 

In Case You Missed It:

  • NCLD endorsed the Student Mental Health Rights Act, a bill focused on improving access to mental health care on college campuses. 
  • Announcements from the U.S. Department of Education (ED)
    • ED hosted an American Rescue Plan Recovery Summit to show how states and districts are using Covid relief funds to address learning recovery, mental health supports, and labor shortages, as well as leveraging other investments to support recovery. Read more here
    • ED’s Office of Civil Rights resolved an investigation of the Los Angeles Unified School District with an agreement requiring the district to take necessary steps to ensure that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), including compensatory services, during and resulting from the pandemic. Read more here.
  • A new report about the research at the Institute for Education Sciences, including the National Center for Special Education Research is released

Statistics on the Issue: Why the Department of Education must issue Guidance

In this blog series, you will hear from members of NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) about the importance of college accommodations and what we are doing to make it easier for disabled students across the country to get the accommodations they are entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Here we start with a review of some background information and statistics on higher education for students with learning disabilities. Then several members of the YALC share their own stories on the accommodation approval process in higher education and why Secretary Miguel Cardona, President Joseph Biden, and others in the administration should support students with disabilities.

NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council is made up of 24 young adults with learning disabilities and attention issues from around the country, acting as disability activists for the 1 in 5 people in this country with learning disabilities and attention issues like us. We represent the diverse community of people with learning disabilities and attention issues. Learning disabilities impact how people learn and process information, how we read and write, and more. A few of the learning and attention-related disabilities represented on the council include; dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, nonverbal learning disability, ADHD, and specific learning disability. In being learning disabled, basically, all of us have experienced some barriers in life due to our access needs not being adequately supported.

In January 2022, we met with the US Department of Education to specifically talk about the access barriers we have experienced in higher education, and request that they take action to dismantle some of the systemic barriers keeping disabled people out of higher education. Specifically, we urged the Department of Education to issue guidance that would require institutions of higher education to accept the documentation of receiving special education services or accommodations in K-12 settings as evidence enough of a disability when seeking accommodations in postsecondary settings. We are hopeful the department will take action on this issue soon.

When he was still a presidential candidate, President Biden shared his Plan for Full Participation and Equality for People With Disabilities. Biden pledged to ensure that all disabled students would have the access and the support they need to succeed in educational settings. This included a pledge to support the post-secondary education of students with disabilities. The campaign plan stated that Biden would: “direct the Department of Education to provide guidance to all postsecondary programs to accept the accommodations students with disabilities have used in pre-K-12 settings for postsecondary settings”. We urge the Department of Education to follow through on that campaign promise. 

Many disabled students receive accommodations in K-12 education, usually laid out in the form of a 504 plan or an IEP (Individualized Education Program). In fact, according to a National Longitudinal Transition Study, as many as 94% of students with learning disabilities received accommodations in high school [1]. However, many students with disabilities experience barriers in receiving the same accommodations once they transition to higher education, with many receiving fewer, or in some cases, no accommodations at all. In fact, that same study found that only 17% of students with learning disabilities received accommodations in higher education settings[1]. Further, in a report by the National Center for Special Education Research, 43% of those with learning disabilities who did not receive accommodations wish that they had[1].

Many universities require that students have a diagnosis no more than 3 years old, and they do not accept K-12 IEPs or 504 plans as sufficient documentation of a disability. When you go to request accommodations at institutions of higher education, you are put in a position of needing to PROVE you are STILL disabled even after having gone through the comprehensive evaluation process in K-12 and receiving accommodations for years. Getting a new diagnosis is not only unnecessary, but it is burdensome, costly, and stigmatizing. This process of getting accommodations at institutions of higher education is unnecessarily confusing and requires exorbitant documentation that is difficult to get and expensive. About 50% of parents of students in high school and recent graduates report that they felt the process was unnecessarily unclear and difficult [3]. A new diagnosis of a learning disability costs on average between $500 and $2500 [2], further pushing a classist divide in who gets an education and support and who doesn’t. Even if you can afford a new diagnosis it can be hard to find an evaluator depending on where you live in the country and it can take months to get through the waiting list to be evaluated.

These barriers result in students not receiving needed accommodations. We know from research on learning disabilities that learning disabilities do not go away. Students’ learning disabilities and need for support does not disappear when they start their post-secondary education. We are concerned for the number of students with disabilities who are not receiving their needed accommodations. These numbers indicate there are significant systemic barriers to students with disabilities receiving accommodations. For several years, NCLD has championed the RISE Act, which would enshrine in law that colleges and universities must accept an IEP or 504 plan as evidence of a disability. While RISE has bipartisan support, Congress has not yet passed this legislation, requiring that the Department of Education take action to address these barriers. This is bigger than just learning disabled students not receiving accommodations. A National Longitudinal Transition Study showed that young adults with disabilities had a post-secondary completion rate of 38%, which was lower than non-disabled students[1].

With all I have said on the struggles learning disabled students are facing, we call to attention the presence of these inequities in our current system. We request the Department of Education to help in ensuring institutions of higher education fully adhere to the requirements of the ADA in providing reasonable accommodations to disabled individuals in order to create equitable access to education and future employment, by issuing guidance to institutions of higher education that they accept K-12 accommodations plans as proof enough of disability.

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References

[1] Sanford, C., Newman, L., Wagner, M., Cameto, R., Knokey, A.-M., and Shaver, D. (2011). The PostHigh School Outcomes of Young Adults With Disabilities up to 6 Years After High School. Key Findings From the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) (NCSER 2011-3004). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

[2] LDA America. Adult learning disability assessment process. Retrieved from https://ldaamerica.org/info/adult-learning-disability-assessment-process/

[3] NCLD May 2016 survey of over 800 parents on Understood.org merging Issues. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2014

Josephine’s Story

Hello, my name is Josephine Olson. I am a senior at Boston University, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Deaf Studies (American Sign Language). I was almost forced to postpone my freshman year of college because the Department of Disability Services at Boston University refused to accept my 504 Plan and three previous Individual Educational Program (IEP) evaluations. I have had an IEP since first grade; yet, I experienced the costly and stressful burden of needing to be re-evaluated right before college for a permanent disability that I already had been diagnosed with multiple times.

 Despite using my accommodations every day since first grade, the university stated that my documentation was too old. I could not fathom attending college without the accommodations I needed to express my intelligence and knowledge fully. 

I have dyslexia and a working memory deficiency. This is my learning disability. My brain processes information differently, which is never going to change, no matter how many coping skills I utilize or academic achievement goals I reach in school.

Going to college without accommodations was not an option. My accommodations are not a privilege; they are my right to an accessible education. Success in school does not mean that you are cured or no longer need accommodations; it means the right accommodations are in place to allow a student to perform at their intellectual ability. You would not expect a physically disabled high schooler who can play basketball in a wheelchair to now have to start playing without one. Taking away academic accommodations from a student with learning disabilities is harmful and discriminatory.

In my situation, my family had the contacts and resources that most students do not have access to, especially in a short amount of time. I was able to find an available educational psychologist to update my testing quickly for several thousand dollars. In the Chicagoland area, most testing facilities have a three to six-month wait period for appointments and cost $1,500 to $5,000 dollars. If students can not get updated testing through their school, this is an economic barrier that can bar them from seeking higher education. 

When colleges require students with learning disabilities to get new evaluations in order to receive support from Student Services, only those who can afford new testing will receive the education they deserve to reach their full potential. All universities should accept high school 504 Plans and IEPs as proof of disability. Creating an accessible educational environment should be the burden of the school and not the student.

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Josephine Olson is a member of NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC).

Kayla’s Story

Hello, I am Kayla Queen and I have dyslexia. I hold a BA in International Cultural Studies and a Certificate in Intercultural Peacebuilding from Brigham Young University – Hawaii. I started graduate school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as a Higher Education Major and have discontinued the program.

BYU-Hawaii

Before I could receive accommodations as a college freshman I had to be re-evaluated. Luckily this was a service BYU-Hawaii provided for free but due to the small size and remote location of the campus, I had to wait until my move-in date to arrive on campus and meet with Disability Services. As someone who has studied student development theory, looking back I see requiring a new evaluation hindered instead of fostered healthy student development for me. While I should have been forming connections with my peers and figuring out with them how to use Canvas and the library circulation desk, I was stuck testing.

It was unnecessarily harmful to rehash my fears and insecurities surrounding having a learning disability. This is especially true when you add insult to injury. Consider the fact I was being set up to enter academia where learning disabilities are stigmatized and professors undermine your disability even with documentation. Making a big deal out of documentation and learning disabilities just adds to the feeling of being othered and deepens the frustration when soliciting needed support is hard.

Taking place over the first and second week of school, testing was taxing and took about 10 hours . Many students do themselves a disservice by passing on accommodations but I see why. Getting approved for accommodations is demanding and it doesn’t guarantee you won’t receive pushback for seeking the support you need. Getting accommodations needs to be made more realistic but we also need to ensure that we increase the number of students protected and the strength of that protection.

UNLV

In 2018 I started graduate school at UNLV but what I experienced was unprecedented and resulted in me leaving school indefinitely. I started the accommodation process a couple of weeks before my classes started but the quarter was more than halfway over by the time I had accommodations in place. This was due to the university’s procedures which were wildly different from the other university I had attended. UNLV only reviews applications for accommodations every two weeks, then if approved you have to meet with accommodation coordinators and then set a separate appointment with a coordinator of accessible technology. In my case, the accommodations coordinator who was assigned to my case was on a two-week vacation and my request to meet with someone else in the interim was denied. Since it took too long to get the accommodations in place I ended up taking an incomplete and starting my program on academic probation as a result. 

There were no guidelines to keep the Disability Resource Center accountable for granting accommodations in a timely manner even when they had all the necessary documentation of my disability. I made up that class in the fall and then transitioned from part-time to full-time in the spring while starting to work as a Graduate Assistant but continued to have a hard time getting accommodations properly in place for one of my courses. Ultimately I decided to discontinue my academic program, not because of grades, but due to constant issues with getting reasonable accommodations implemented. 

Institutions of Higher Education would see much better outcomes if they sought to lighten the burden of managing a learning disability for students who have them. When the process of getting accommodations is so time-consuming and time-sensitive, financially burdensome, and emotionally draining that it hinders a student’s ability to learn, you know we have a deeper problem than “having a hard time learning”.

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Kayla Queen is an NCLD Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) member. Connect with Kayla on LinkedIN here.

Rachelle’s Story

When I moved to start my Ph.D., the biggest concern on my mind should have been preparing to start up my classes and research. But instead, all I could think about was the anxiety I felt about requesting disability accommodations. I am dyslexic with ADHD, and while I know I have the potential to thrive in my Ph.D. program, I am aware of how much I depend on accommodations in order to make education accessible. Completing a degree without accommodations is not an option for me.

But I should have had nothing to worry about going into my accommodation meeting. I have an official diagnosis of both dyslexia and ADHD (both disabilities protected under the ADA) and I have been diagnosed and receiving accommodations for these disabilities since early elementary school. Also both are lifelong neurologically based disabilities that can not go away. I am dyslexic with ADHD, that is not changing.

However, my university, along with many universities across the country, requires a student to have a diagnosis within the last five years, even for disabilities like dyslexia that by definition do not go away. I knew people personally who had been denied disability accommodations due to having a diagnosis over 5 years old, I knew this could be possible for me.

Stricken with anxiety for months leading up to meeting with the disability services office, I went to request my accommodations. I had at this point already gone through this process before with the three post-secondary institutions that I attended previously. I knew what to expect in this meeting, including the type of documents they wanted and the type of questions they would ask me. However, this time it was different, the odds of me getting accommodations were less in my favor since my documentation was older than 5 years.

I knew I would have to prove that my dyslexia and ADHD had not gone away, that I really did need accommodations like my past diagnosis said. On my way to this meeting, I tightly gripped a 1.5 inch stack of documents containing detailed evidence of disability and accommodation history. Here’s a brief list of just a portion of my documentation: (1) my initial diagnoses evaluated outside of the schools, (2) multiple disability reevaluations by public K-12 school, (3) every version of my IEP throughout K-12 (with additional letters written by teachers of how my disabilities affected my learning, which accommodations I actually used in the classroom and how often, and how each accommodation was necessary), (4) the accommodations I was granted at three previous post secondary institutions (with records from the disability services office of how often I requested and used each accommodation), (5) the official accommodations I was granted on multiple standardized exams (i.e. AP exams, PSAT, ACT, and GRE), and much more beyond this. I don’t know any dyslexics with more documentation than I had (excluding a diagnosis from less than five years ago), but would it be enough? In addition to these documents, I had in my hands a prewritten printed speech I planned to say in the meeting to try and prove my case.

Going into this meeting I was so scared of being denied accommodations that I ended up having an anxiety attack in the lobby of the disability office. I thought, “what do I do if they deny my accommodations? I have worked so hard to get here and being a researcher is my dream, but without accommodations is this even possible for me? Would I have to drop out? How long would I make it before I would drop out?” I was spiraling. I know academia is not structured for disabled students like me. But without accommodations to level the playing field what did I think I was doing here?

After the meeting they ended up granting me accommodations, deciding my diagnosis from 6 years ago was good enough as it was in combination with my extensive additional documentation. But while I got my accommodations, I should not have had to go through that much anxiety to get them. It was an invalidating experience having to prove that my disability and need for accommodations had not disappeared. Also, many LD students who had K12 accommodations do not have the level of documentation I have, and they should not have to. We know that LDs are lifelong disabilities that do not go away with age. So why do universities require students to have reevaluations redone so frequently? This is unnecessary and costly to students. This results in at best my situation that was a highly anxiety inducing and invalidating experience and for others it results in not receiving accommodations for clearly diagnosed disabilities and possible drop out as a result.

Systemic barriers in disabled students’ access to higher education must be acknowledged and dismantled. We are urging the Department of Education to take steps towards equity in education access, by issuing guidance to postsecondary institutions that they accept IEPs and 504s as evidence enough for disability accommodations.

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Rachelle Johnson is an NCLD Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) member.

The Lesser Known Learning Disability

When the average person thinks of a learning disability (LD), oftentimes, dyslexia, dyscalculia, or even ADHD will be top of mind, however, there’s a lesser-known disorder called a nonverbal learning disability (NVLD or NLD) that is less discussed, and there’s a reason for that. ADDitude magazine describes NVLD as “the most overlooked, misunderstood, and under-diagnosed learning disability.” Individuals with NVLD often have trouble getting a diagnosis in a medical setting or being identified from an early age. There are several factors that contribute to this difficulty, but overall, this specific learning disability (SLD) is simply hard to diagnose.

Clinicians have historically lumped individuals with NVLD with those with Asperger’s disorder (AD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and although similarities between the symptoms exist, clearer distinctions in identification can really make a difference for people who struggle with NVLD. As many individuals with learning and attention issues could attest, the true identification or diagnosis of one’s LD is a critical step towards gaining confidence in one’s learning ability.

So, what is a nonverbal learning disability (NVLD)? The sections below go into more detail.

Individuals with Nonverbal Learning Disabilities are Highly Verbal

Contrary to the prefix “Non” in Nonverbal, individuals with NVLD are indeed highly verbal. In fact, most people with NVLD have strong verbal capabilities. The National Center for Learning Disabilities’ (NCLD) Senior Advisor and LD expert, Dr. Sheldon H. Horowitz, says individuals with NVLD “often have extremely powerful verbal and reasoning skills,” however, they are ”weak in nonverbal areas.” A key struggle is in the area of reading non-verbal cues, which can be critical as nonverbal language accounts for the majority of how we communicate.

Other characteristics of NVLD show up in the academic, physical, and social/emotional areas. 

Characteristics Individuals with NVLD may Struggle with:

Academic & Physical

  • Verbal expression and reasoning
  • Reading and comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Auditory memory
  • Attention to detail
  • Math 
  • Handwriting
  • Coordination
  • Spatial perception
  • Directions
  • Estimations of size, weight, shape, or distance

Social / Emotional

  • Social skills / fluid social interaction 
  • Reading facial expressions
  • Changes to routine
  • Inattention or active in childhood
  • Self esteem

The Social / Emotional Challenge

As nonverbal cues account for 93% of communication, and verbal, 7%, a tricky challenge for folks with NVLD shows up in the area of social/emotional interaction. Tone, facial expression, and body language are often very hard to read or never truly deciphered. Even a tiny hint at sarcasm, for example, can completely go over one’s head. So what might be obvious to most, might be entirely missed by some.

This means there’s often a heavy focus on words and literal meanings, so much of the context behind tone and body language will prove difficult for individuals with this LD.

In 2020, the comedian, Chris Rock, opened up about his own struggles, having been diagnosed with the disability (NVLD) as an adult. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Rock said, “all I understand are the words,” sharing how he “often takes things too literally,” he then goes on to explain, “by the way, all those things are really great for writing jokes — they’re just not great for one on one relationships.”

As tone is such an important vehicle in the delivery of language, these subtleties in everyday communication add to the anxiety that individuals with NVLD have as they navigate the world. However, with an identification and/or diagnosis, there’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. 

Identifying NVLD

As Rock shared in an Extra interview “once you’re diagnosed, it makes everything easier.”

Even though individuals with NVLD are diagnosed now more than ever, this learning difficulty remains notoriously under the radar. Clinicians often find an overlap between the symptoms of Asperger’s disorder (AD) and NVLD, and although similarities between both LDs exist, a clear identification or diagnosis is the best path forward. 

Since 2013, The NVLD Project has been working hard to raise awareness for the disorder. In an interview with the Today Show, the founder of the NVLD project, Laura Lemle said, “if you know one person with NVLD, you know one person with NVLD.”  

The organization continues to push to get NVLD listed in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM); a move that would help improve more accurate diagnoses for doctors/clinicians.

March 2022 Policy News Round-Up

Congress passes the FY 2022 budget, President Biden releases his FY 2023 budget request, Secretary Cardona sends a letter to parents and educators, new legislation is introduced to support teachers, and more. See how NCLD worked on behalf of students with disabilities this month.


Congress Passes FY 2022 Budget & President Biden Releases FY 2023 Budget Proposal

On March 10, Congress finally passed the federal budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, wrapping up a prolonged appropriations process that involved multiple continuing resolutions to keep the government funded. The budget included $13 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants under Part B, a $406 million increase from FY 2021, and $76.4 billion for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) overall, a $2.9 billion increase from FY 2021.

Just over two weeks later, on March 28, President Biden released his administration’s FY 2023 budget proposal, marking the start of the FY 2023 appropriations cycle. The proposal requests historic increases in funds for the ED, including key investments to increase funding for programs under the IDEA. 

Here’s how the proposed budget request for FY 2023 compares with the FY 2022 budget passed earlier in the month, as well as the FY 2021 budget:

Secretary Cardona Letter on COVID-19 Guidance for Students with Disabilities

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona released an 8-page letter to educators and parents about new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) around COVID-19 and how that impacts students with disabilities. The letter reiterated to parents and educators that schools must not place students with disabilities and others at high risk of negative outcomes from COVID-19 in a segregated setting. Specifically, the document provided guidance around the following:

  • Leveraging the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 process to ensure protections are in place to protect in person learning
  • Continuing the use of layered prevention strategies to keep school communities safe
  • Ensuring students receive education and services in the least restrictive environment

NCLD appreciates the Secretary’s commitment to ensuring students with disabilities continue to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment as schools continue to recover from the pandemic. 

Teachers LEAD Act is Introduced in Congress

On March 18, the Teachers LEAD Act was introduced in Congress by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Sen. Ben Ray Juján (D-NM). The legislation aims to address the educator shortage and retention crisis that has impacted schools and students across the country, including students with disabilities. If passed, the Teachers LEAD Act would be a significant step toward building a robust pipeline that would enable teachers to become leaders, and leverage educators’ talent to impact student achievement. NCLD applauds this effort and was one of 40 organizations to support the legislation when it was introduced.

Education Reform Now Releases Essential Assessment Toolkit

This week, Education Reform Now released an Essential Assessment Toolkit, which includes four resources designed to help families, advocates, district and school leaders, and State Education Agencies better understand and communicate the value of annual, summative assessments. These resources include a guide to addressing common misperceptions, talking points, guidance on how to build a balanced assessment system, and questions for families to ask about their child’s annual assessment. You can access the full toolkit here.

In Case You Missed It:

  • We want to hear from you! Are you a young adult with learning or attention issues, a parent, or a teacher who works with students with disabilities? Share your experiences about post-high school transition with NCLD. Take our 5-minute survey today.
  • Scholarship Opportunities: NCLD’s COVID-19 Impact scholarship is back for the upcoming school year! If you are a college student with a learning disability experiencing significant disruptions in your studies due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, learn more and apply today! Graduating high school seniors with a learning disability or ADHD can also apply to one of our scholarships!
  • The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) released a report on The Future of Education Research at IES. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) was “encouraged” by the recommendations.

The Overlooked History of Women with Learning Disabilities

As we recognize and celebrate the incredible achievements women have made throughout our nation’s history, one component that is glaringly overlooked are the challenges related to learning disabilities and attention issues among the women that have made a significant impact in our society.

Over the years, we have learned about the inspiring women who have faced adversity and made history despite great opposition. However, their disabilities and possibly the hardships resulting from those disabilities have been left out of many stories that we have become familiar with throughout our lives. The narrow lens through which these stories have been told is forever incomplete if we do not create space for the truth to be unveiled.

This Women’s History Month, we would like to shed light on a few influential women who made history despite having a learning disability or attention issue. We recognize that these are only a handful of the many women whose stories are untold or still being written.

Whoopi Goldberg was the first Black woman to host the Academy Awards ceremony in 1994. She is also the only Black woman to achieve EGOT, having won all four major awards for professional entertainers—Emmy (Television), Grammy (Music), Oscar (Film), and Tony (Theater). As an adult, Goldberg was diagnosed with dyslexia.

Simone Biles is an American gymnastics champion, having made history in 2016 for becoming the first woman to win four consecutive national championships in over 42 years as well as the first American gymnast to earn 14 World Championships medals—making her the most decorated woman gymnast in American history. Biles has shared her personal struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) via Twitter after her confidential medical records were shared publicly in 2016.

Cher is known for being an American singer and songwriter. In 2011, she made history as the first artist to score a number one song on the Billboard chart in each of the last six decades. After her son, Chaz, was diagnosed with dyslexia, she recognized her own similarities and was diagnosed with both dyslexia and dyscalculia.

Amanda Gorman made history as the youngest inaugural poet at the 46th presidential inauguration, being the first poet to share at a Super Bowl and being named the nation’s first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. Gorman has been diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder and a speech impediment.

We are grateful for each of these women and their contributions toward our society. As we look towards the future, let’s encourage and empower more women to share their experiences with learning disabilities and attention issues. If you have a history maker that you want us to highlight, please share their impactful story with us.

NCLD’s Director of Policy & Advocacy Quoted in K-12 Dive Article Regarding Recent Congressional Spending

In a recent article, congressional spending bill lowballs key Biden education requests, published by K-12 Dive, National Center for Learning Disabilities Director of Policy & Advocacy, Lindsay Kubatzky shares his thoughts regarding congressional spending.

Shedding light on IDEA funding lags, Kubatzky said, “We were disappointed in the final numbers given that all of the previous FY 22 proposals we had seen showed significant increases to IDEA funding. Congress could’ve used this as an opportunity to take a significant step towards fulfilling their promise nearly 50 years ago to fully fund IDEA. Instead, the modest increase will force schools and districts to use more of their funds to cover the costs of supporting students with disabilities.”Read the full article here.

February 2022 Policy News Round-Up

Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 funding is temporarily extended, postsecondary education legislation passes in the House, Congress introduces a bill funding early childhood special education programs, and NCLD provides comments on proposed changes to the Civil Rights Data Collection. See how NCLD worked on behalf of students with disabilities this month.


Congress Passes a Short-Term Continuing Resolution to Fund the Government 

Congress passed a stopgap spending bill on February 18, that will allow for additional government funding through March 11, 2022. Although FY 2022 started on October 1, Congress has yet to finalize the FY 2022 appropriations process and funding is currently frozen at FY 2021 levels. NCLD strongly supports the work of Congress to complete the appropriations process in normal order and opposes the use of a year-long continuing resolution to conclude FY 2022 work. As they come toward an agreement on spending levels, NCLD has urged the Appropriations Committees to increase funding for critical education programs and reiterated the time-sensitive nature of passing FY 2022 spending bills. 

House Passes the America COMPETES Act with an Amendment on Data Transparency in Postsecondary Education 

On February 4th, the America COMPETES Act, a bill aimed at boosting competitiveness in the global market, passed in the House. It included an amendment that would require colleges and universities to collect data on student enrollment, transfer, persistence, and completion and be disaggregated by demographics. Disability status is included as a recommended data element for disaggregation for such data.

The Senate’s bill (called the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021) was passed last summer and did not have this amendment. The two chambers will begin negotiations soon to reconcile the two bills and will need to decide whether to have this provision in the final bill. 

Funding Early Childhood is the Right IDEA Act Introduced

On February 1st, the Funding Early Childhood is the Right IDEA Act was introduced in Congress with bipartisan support. The legislation aims to “restore full funding for educational and early-intervention services for children with disabilities”, focusing specifically on investments in parts of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that assist with early intervention services for children 0-5 years old. Funding for these programs provides greater resources and better outcomes for young children with disabilities. NCLD applauds this effort and was one of over 60 organizations to support the legislation when it was introduced.

NCLD Provides Comments on Proposed Changes on the 2022-2023 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC)

NCLD recently responded to a request for public comment through the Federal Register regarding proposed changes to the 2022-2023 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). Among the proposed changes were restored data elements removed from previous collections, and new data elements relating to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the leading source of civil rights data in public education, the CRDC provides parents, educators, and advocates with essential information about the educational experiences of historically underserved groups, including students with disabilities. NCLD provided comments in support for proposed changes that improved the quality and transparency of data collection on students with disabilities, as well as support for new data elements to promote safe and healthy school environments, such as data on seclusion and restraint.

President Biden Addresses Education Priorities

During his State of the Union Address on March 1, President Biden touched on a number of education issues while discussing his policy goals for the coming year. Among these issues, the President pushed for increased tutoring and mentoring services in schools, which NCLD has advocated for in our report on inclusive, accelerated learning. President Biden also proposed a comprehensive strategy to address mental health issues in the country, which includes a focus on child mental health and expanded access to mental health services in schools. In a fact sheet released ahead of the speech about his mental health strategy, Biden additionally announced his plans to ask Congress for a “$3.3 billion increase for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grants…and $450 millon for IDEA Part C”, which would benefit students with disabilities. 

In Case You Missed It:

  • Arizona HB 2031 was recently introduced in the Arizona State Legislature, marking a major opportunity to increase accessibility for college students with disabilities in the state. If you are an Arizona resident, show your support for this bill by writing to your State senator. 
  • The U.S. Department of Education (ED) released guidance on the impact of COVID-19 on 2021-2022 accountability systems under ESEA. 
  • ED’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released a fact sheet on providing “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE) during COVID-10 and the need for compensatory services under Section 504.

Champion Bright Futures this Black History Month

As many throughout the United States recognize and celebrate Black History Month this year, it is important to shed light on the critical need to create environments where young leaders and modern history makers can thrive. 

Black culture and achievements continue to play a critical role in how we live, work and play today. However, many students and future leaders face challenging circumstances that hinder optimal performance due to the lack of understanding and resources provided to those with learning disabilities and attention issues.  

Research conducted by the National Center for Learning Disabilities—Significant Disproportionality in Special Education: Trends Among Black Students—points explicitly to inequities in education for students of color, students impacted by poverty, and students with disabilities. These inequities and biases include but are not limited to the following*:

  • Black students are often misidentified as having a disability and placed in more restrictive settings, and experience harsher discipline because of the intersectionality of race and special education. 
  • While overrepresented in special education, Black students are woefully underrepresented in advanced courses. 
  • Black students represent 16% of elementary school enrollment, but only 9% of Black students are in gifted and talented programs. 
  • One in four Black boys with disabilities are suspended each year, compared to only one in ten White boys with disabilities.

At NCLD, we believe all students deserve a right to quality education no matter their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.  

This Black History Month, we encourage you to advocate for policies and practices that will ensure each child is considered an individual with their own unique set of gifts, talents, and circumstances. You can take action and contact your members of Congress to support key issues and/or donate today to help dismantle inequitable systems and recognize the potential of students of color with learning disabilities with your support.

*Learn more about NCLD’s research regarding the Significant Disproportionality in Special Education: Trends Among Black Students here.

NCLD’s President and CEO Lindsay Jones Steps Down

After eight years with NCLD, President and CEO Lindsay Jones announced her resignation, effective February 4, 2022. 

“It’s been my great honor to work alongside NCLD’s Board of Directors and amazing, talented team to remove barriers and create opportunities for the 1 in 5 with learning disabilities and attention issues,” said Jones. “By lifting up the voices of young adults, families, educators and researchers from all walks of life, we’ve raised awareness in Congress and across the nation about the great strengths of those who learn differently. I am proud of what we’ve achieved together.”

Under Lindsay’s guidance, NCLD launched a young adult program, organized parent advocates, enacted a new strategic plan and built NCLD’s national policy portfolio, ensuring it is the leading voice for the 1 in 5 in disability and education. 

“We are grateful for Lindsay’s leadership and vision, especially in turbulent times,” said co-chairs Margi Booth and Joe Zimmel. “NCLD is strong and stable. Our Board of Directors is excited to continue NCLD’s great work and expand the impact of the organization as we move into the future.”

NCLD’s Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Kena Mayberry, will assume responsibilities for leading the NCLD team. NCLD’s Board is launching a national search and has retained a firm. More details will be announced shortly.