June 29th, 2020

June 2020 Policy News Round Up

This June, Congress tackled reopening schools safely as advocates push for more funding and safer schools. See how NCLD worked on behalf of people with disabilities this month. 

NCLD and 13 Partner Organizations Release Recommendations for How States and Districts Can Prioritize Students Hit Hardest by Education Disruptions

NCLD worked with partners to develop a set of recommendations to guide how funding can prioritize equity in the state and district response to COVID-19. We agreed that:

  • “Our most vulnerable students—like those from low-income backgrounds, students experiencing homelessness, immigrant students without comprehensive access to our social safety net, and all students who have been historically underserved—have been hit first and hardest by the disruptions. Without an intense and intentional focus on equity, they also will be the last to recover academically, socially, and emotionally.” 
  • “As resources grow scarce, and likely become scarcer, we must target funds and supports to our most vulnerable students. We must design emergency response and recovery programs that prioritize these students from the beginning, rather than include them as an afterthought.”

Read the full set of recommendations here.

NEW: NCLD Parent Advocacy Toolkit to Help Students With Learning and Attention Issues During COVID-19

Based on the recommendations (above) developed by NCLD and partners, NCLD created a toolkit to help parents advocate for equity as school districts develop reopening plans for the 2020-2021 school year. This toolkit can help advocates speak up for students with learning and attention issues during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Using these recommendations, advocates can encourage decision makers in their state and school district to use funding and resources in ways that will address the needs of students with disabilities. Download the full toolkit here.  

How the Federal Government is Responding to the the School Funding Crisis

The Council of Chief State School Officers, an organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee estimating how much reopening schools would cost.

The organization estimates that states will need between $158.1 billion and $244.6 billion in total additional funding to reopen school buildings safely and serve all students in the next academic year. While the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this month that would provide $58 billion in funding for public schools, the Senate has yet to take action. Although, the Senate Republicans are warming to the idea of providing additional funding. 

U.S. House of Representatives Committee Discusses Reopening Schools 

The House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing to discuss COVID-19 reopening procedures and their relationship to racial inequalities. Testimonies, especially that of former Secretary of Education Dr. John B. King, Jr. (now President and CEO of the Education Trust), highlighted policy options that could prevent reentry procedures from exacerbating existing educational inequities. Dr. King stressed that “students are going to come back to school having lost as much as 70% of the ground of the school year in math; 30% or more in reading, and the way that we address that is to provide additional instructional support, particularly critical for students with disabilities and English learners who have been without services, in many cases, since March.”

In addition, Dr. King and others pushed the Committee to consider requiring states, as a condition for receiving new federal stimulus dollars, to protect their highest need districts from cuts, and requiring districts to protect their highest need schools from cuts. Many of these districts have a high percentage of students of color and have been historically underfunded due to a variety of reasons including systemic racism. Watch the full recording of the hearing here

Growing Number of School Districts Do Away with Police Officers in Schools

In light of recent events including the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the subsequent protests, many schools have decided to cancel contracts with School Resource Officers (SROs). The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), estimates that between 14,000 and 20,000 SROs are currently in service nationwide. However, the presence of SROs is associated with more suspensions and expulsions (which we know from existing CRDC data disproportionately affect students with disabilities and students of color). Research also suggests that the presence of SROs might increase the chances that students are arrested for low-level offenses such as disorderly conduct. 

Recently, NCLD joined with other organizations in support of Civil Rights Principles for

Safe, Healthy, and Inclusive School Climates. These principles emphasize the use of supportive discipline practices and call for a prohibition on using federal funds on school police or surveillance. Read the full set of principles here.

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