AUCD Legislative News In Brief

October 24, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
 
  October 24, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 43
  
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Congressional Schedule
The House returns Monday from a weeklong recess just as the Senate begins its own weeklong recess. 

Education
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a two-day markup to consider draft legislation to reauthorize and amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as No Child Left Behind.  The group debated and voted on a number of amendments, finally approving the amended legislation with a bipartisan 15-7 vote Thursday. 

The draft bill is a bipartisan compromise reached between HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY) after months of tough negotiations.  It disposes of the most controversial provisions of No Child Left Behind, including the law's accountability system requiring all students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014 - a standard the Department of Education believes at least 80 percent of schools would fail to meet.  Instead, the bill requires states to adopt "college and career ready" standards and develop statewide accountability systems to receive federal funding.  The bill emphasizes the inclusion of all students, calls for expanded and more accessible state and district report cards, strengthens standards and assessment requirements and promotes multi-tiered systems of support, universal design for learning and positive behavioral interventions and supports.  Some provisions remain controversial, however.  Disability and civil rights organizations have expressed concern over the bill's accountability system, which focuses federal resources only on the lowest performing five percent of schools and those identified as having achievement gaps among student subgroups, including students with disabilities.  The remaining schools would be governed by the state's accountability system, which some fear will leave out students with disabilities and other subgroups.  Other concerns center around the bill's standards for teacher quality, which allow teachers who have not yet completed alternate route certification programs to be considered "highly qualified". 

The HELP Committee will hold a hearing on the bill November 8.  Chairman Harkin said he hopes the bill will reach the Senate floor before Thanksgiving, and feels optimistic it could be passed by the end of the year (see the committee press release).  AUCD provided input through its education policy workgroup and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Education Task Force.  The next step is for the full Senate to take up the bill.  Whether the bill will find support in the House of Representatives is unclear.  For more information, contact Ellen Jensby at ejensby@aucd.org.

CLASS Act
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it does not see an immediate path forward for the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program, created by the Affordable Care Act to help pay for long-term services and supports to help working adults maintain independence in the community.  This announcement was misinterpreted by the press to mean that the Obama Administration was giving up on the program.  Since then, the Administration has tried to clarify its message and emphasize the need for more policy work on the CLASS program.  However, some members of Congress who are opposed to the health reform law used the announcement as "proof" that the law is flawed.  They are calling for a repeal of the CLASS program as well as a repeal of the whole law.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled an oversight hearing on CLASS this Wednesday.  Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT) are scheduled to testify.  AUCD released a statement Monday urging the Administration to continue to work on implementation.  For more information, see last week's In Brief, October 14 Washington Post article, and Advance Class website.

FY 2012 Appropriations
Because none of the 12 annual appropriations bills have been signed into law, all federally funded programs continue to operate on a continuing resolution (CR) set to expire on November 18.  Congress will likely need to pass another CR to give members time to complete work on fiscal year 2012 appropriations.  According to House and Senate appropriations staff, the Labor, HHS, Education appropriations bill is likely to be one of the last funding bills to be considered.  We could also see a repeat of last fiscal year, when a full-year CR was passed with funding levels slightly lower than the previous fiscal year. AUCD is watching this process closely and has authored several letters urging House and Senate appropriators to fund disability programs at their highest possible funding levels for FY 2012.

Budget: FY 2013 & Beyond
Members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction continue to meet regularly behind closed doors.  The committee faces a November 23 deadline to produce a plan to achieve at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.  If the committee does not reach agreement, or if Congress does not enact its recommendations, automatic, across-the-board cuts ("sequestration") will begin in 2013.  Other options discussed by observers include a partial deal to achieve half of the savings through specified spending cuts and the rest through sequestration.  Lawmakers and others involved in the discussions report that the committee has yet to find a compromise on entitlement reforms and taxes - issues that have proved fatal in previous negotiations.  The committee will hold a public meeting Wednesday.  Dr. Doug Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office, will testify on "Security and Non-Security Discretionary Outlays." 
The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the effect of automatic cuts to the Department of Defense. 

2012 Disability Policy Leadership Fellow
AUCD is pleased to announce Kristina Majewski, JD, as the 2012 Disability Policy Leadership Fellow.  Kristina joins us from the RFK UCEDD in the Bronx where she served as the center's first LEND Law Fellow, focusing her research on the transition from special education to adulthood, housing options and deinstitutionalization efforts.  Kristina earned her BA in Economics (minor in Social work) from New York University in 2008, and, in 2011, earned her Juris Doctor from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan, where she focused on education and disability law and advocacy.  Kristina is the proud sibling of two adolescents with special needs and an expert on the day-to-day challenges they experience.  We look forward to introducing Kristina to the Network at the Annual Meeting next month and welcoming her to the AUCD central office in early January.

Legislative Affairs at the Annual Meeting
The Legislative Affairs Committee is planning a number of events at this year's Annual Meeting and Conference which are sure to be of interest to In Brief readers, including: 

 

For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.

For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=164

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