AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 1, 2010

Congressional Schedule
The Senate will continue its push on bills intended to create jobs.  The House may consider legislation to reduce the use of restraints and seclusion in schools, one of AUCD's legislative priorities (see below).

Budget and Appropriations
Budget and Appropriations Committees continue to hold hearings on proposed FY 2011 appropriations for programs and activities under each committee's jurisdiction.  On March 3, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will testify before the House Education and Labor Committee on the fiscal year 2011 budget request for the Department of Education.  Last week, AUCD President and Director of the Illinois UCEDD, Tamar Heller, met with House Appropriations Subcommittee staff and with staff of Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin regarding AUCD network funding.

Health Care Reform
President Obama held a seven-hour health care summit with a bipartisan group of congressmen involved in the health care debate in an attempt to find enough common ground to pass health care reform legislation.  The meeting included 40 bipartisan and bicameral members.  President Obama structured the summit to focus on four issues: controlling costs, overhauling insurance regulations, reducing the deficit and expanding health coverage.  Unfortunately, it appears that the summit participants could not find consensus on the major issues.  The President and Democratic leaders are now trying to decide how to move forward.  One possible strategy is to pass a bill using budget reconciliation procedures in the Senate which only requires 51 votes, instead of 60.  The reconciliation bill would be modeled on the bill released by President Obama on Feb. 22. Obama's bill is based on the Senate bill, but includes changes wanted by House members.  There are also reports that the President is considering a fallback plan that would extend coverage to 15 million, half the amount that the current proposal is purported to cover. 

The Kaiser Family Foundation has updated its side-by-side comparison tool to reflect the President's reform proposal, in addition to the House and Senate-passed bills. A number of health reform resources can be found on the Foundation's health reform gateway page.

AUCD, along with 230 organizations, has signed on to a letter developed by the Coalition for Health Funding which discusses the need for a $9.3 billion increase for discretionary public health programs to support the nation's mounting health needs. The Coalition for Health Funding is a nonprofit alliance of 50 national health organizations that works in a nonpartisan fashion to ensure that health discretionary spending remains highly visible as Congress and the Administration set federal budget priorities.

Education
Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee announced their plans to begin a bipartisan reform of the nation's primary federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind, last week. The committee held its first hearing on ESEA reauthorization Wednesday, focusing on HR 4330, the "All Students Achieving through Reform Act of 2009." The bill would create a new competitive grant program to expand and replicate successful charter schools to serve additional students, with a priority for low-income students, students in schools with low graduation rates and students in schools in need of improvement. There was a great deal of discussion about students with disabilities during the hearing. Thomas Hehir, Ed. D., Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and former director of Office of Special Education Programs at ED, testified about how charter schools serve special populations, including children with disabilities. He provided the results of his research, which show significant under-enrollment of children with disabilities in charter schools in several large cities. He called for federal guidance on serving special populations, funding for research on best practices in charter schools and a national study to acquire comprehensive data on the ways charter schools serve special populations. His testimony is available online. Eileen Ahearn, Director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, testified about special education in charter schools and their need for technical assistance in providing special education services to students with disabilities. Committee leaders invited all stakeholders to submit their input by email at eseacomments@mail.house.gov by March 26.

Restraint and Seclusion
Legislation to reduce the use of restraints and seclusion in schools is moving quickly in the House.  The full House of Representatives may consider the "Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act" (HR 4247) as soon as this Wednesday.   The Committee on Education and Labor approved the bill on a bipartisan vote of 34-10 on January 28 (the committee report is now available).  The Senate companion bill (S. 2860) has not yet been considered in committee.  AUCD emailed an alert on Feb. 26 urging network members to educate members of Congress and to ask their Senators to co-sponsor the bill.

The Department of Education has released its comprehensive summary of restraint and seclusion statutes, regulations, policies and guidance from each state and territory. The summary shows that policies vary widely from state to state, and while some have made progress, many have no policy at all on the subject.

Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last week that Sharon Lewis will be joining the department as Commissioner of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) beginning next month.  Since 2007, Ms. Lewis has been a Senior Disability Policy Advisor to House Committee on Education & Labor Chairman George Miller (D-CA).  In that role, she has advised the Chairman on legislative strategy and disability-related policy in education, employment, and healthcare, and has served as the lead staff on the disability provisions of key legislation and on implementation oversight.  Before taking that position, Lewis was a Kennedy Policy Fellow for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). In 2008, Ms. Lewis received the AUCD Gold Star Award for her disability policy work.

Disability Policy Seminar
AUCD recently emailed an announcement with instructions for registering for the 2010 Disability Policy Seminar to take place in Washington, DC on April 12-14.  There are only two weeks left to receive the early bird rates! Registration, hotel, and preliminary program information are all on
AUCD's Events website.

Note from the Editor
AUCD's analysis of the President's FY 2011 budget proposal is now
online, with minor revisions to the appropriations chart.