Diminished support and a general dissatisfaction with funding levels forced Republican leaders to pull the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization bill from the House floor before a vote could be taken. The bill would make almost $5 billion in cuts to DoEd spending. HR 5, the proposed Student Success Act, also seeks to limit the federal government’s power to set education standards across the country, failed to secure enough support among moderate members. A number of controversial issues limited support for the bill, including the Common Core academic standards, school vouchers, and federal reporting and accountability mandates. Democrats support the proposed ESEA substitute bill, developed by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), which proposes a variety of measures to strengthen education for students with disabilities and disadvantaged students. Attention now turns back to the Senate, where Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) continue to negotiate a compromise bill.
GOP leaders in the House and Senate release a draft bill to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The authorization for funding is set to expire Sept. 30. This effort is being led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce. In addition to extending authorization for the program, the draft makes a number of policy changes including allowing states to impose waiting periods, eliminating funding for states to cover children with family incomes above 300% of poverty, and reducing federal matching funds for those above 250%. Earlier, Democrats had introduced a four-year extension that did not make major policy changes to the program. Advocates say they are pleased to see bipartisan support for this critical health program.
Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), introduces the Preserving the Work Requirement for Welfare Act (HR 1179) which would block HHS from granting state work service waivers to some participants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The bill, which is similar to legislation that passed the House during the 113th Congress, was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. HR 1179 would prohibit the Health and Human Services Dept. (HHS) from waiving work participation requirements as authorized in a 2012 HHS Information Memorandum. The memo allowed states more flexibility in testing policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families. HHS supported projects that could demonstrate strategies for more effectively serving individuals with disabilities, along with an alternative approach to measuring participation and outcomes for individuals with disabilities. People with disabilities are estimated to make up a sizable proportion of TANF recipients.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) introduces S 528, the Empowering Parents and Students Through Information Act. This bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in order to improve the requirements regarding alternate standards and assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities by ensuring that parents are provided more information before their child is taken off track for a regular diploma. The legislation would clarify the process for determining who takes alternate assessments, require informed consent, and prohibit use of individualized education programs (IEPs) for accountability.
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduce S 516, the Every Child Counts Act. This bill promotes inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education curriculum. The bill makes improvements to the alternative assessment process and will allow up to 1% of all students (those with the most severe cognitive disabilities) to take an alternate academic assessments. Presently, federal regulations have a cap of 1% for the number of proficient and advanced scores on alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS) that can be used to calculate annual yearly progress (AYP) under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind). The legislation seeks to limit use of alternate assessments on students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who constitute less than 1% of all students.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) introduces the Keeping All Students Safe Act (HR 927) which would establish minimum standards that prohibit elementary and secondary school personnel from using any physical, mechanical, or chemical restraint that restricts breathing or behaviors. Federal law already prohibits schools from using any method that can compromise student health and safety. The bill would expand the prohibitions to include the use of physical restraint or seclusion unless there is imminent danger of physical injury to the student or others. It would also require school personnel to receive crisis intervention training and certification; prohibit physical restraint or seclusion from being written into a student’s education plan, individual safety plan, behavioral plan, or individual education program (IEP) as a planned intervention; and require schools to establish procedures to notify parents in a timely manner if physical restraint or seclusion is imposed on their child.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduces HR 932, the Healthy Families Act, that would allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year to be used to recover from their own illnesses, access preventive care, provide care to a sick family member, or attend school meetings related to a child’s health condition or disability. Workers in businesses with fewer than 15 employees would earn up to seven job-protected unpaid sick days.