Daniel S. Levine

The U.S. Department of Education announced in a newsletter that it had rescinded a total of 72 policy documents relating to students with disabilities.

The Department of Education took the steps October 2. Of those 72 documents, 63 are from the Office of Special Education Programs and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration. The Department of Education called the 72 policies “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective.”

The move is in keeping with President Donald Trump’s mandate to federal agencies to reduce the burden of regulation. In January, he issued an executive order seeking to reduce the economic toll of compliance with federal regulations by ordering that for every new regulation put into effect, agencies must eliminate at least two existing regulations.

While eliminating unnecessary regulation is a good thing, members of the disabilities community seemed unclear about the consequences of the department’s decision. News of the agency’s action were met with concern from disability rights advocates. Many are in the process of reviewing the documents to try to assess how the changes may will impact students. A full list of the rescinded document can be found online at [http://eduptcwwwp01.ed.gov/policy/speced/reg/eo13777/eo13777-osers-outdated-guidance-list-20171002.pdf].

“Despite the initial confusion and concern we all felt, the guidance rescinded by the Department of Education on Friday does not appear to have any substantive impact on students with disabilities,” said Meghan Casey Whittaker, manager of public policy and advocacy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities. “However, NCLD remains concerned about the process the Department engaged in and its lack of transparency. Parents care about guidance documents and often use them as tools to advocate for their children and partner with schools. It’s important for the Department to know which documents are helpful to parents and to maintain those documents going forward.”

The Department of Education Regulatory Reform Task Force earlier this year sought public comments on the department’s policies broadly, but also specifically on policy guidance issued through the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. That comment period had been extended from its original deadline until September 20, 2017.

In a September 12 comment letter to the department, [https://www.cec.sped.org/~/media/Files/Policy/Current%20Sped%20Issues%20Home/Docket%20ID%20ED2017OS0074%20Evaluation%20of%20Exisiting%20Regluations.pdf], Mikki Garcia, president for the Council of Exceptional Children, a professional association of educators dedicated to advancing the success of children with exceptionalities, stated the organization’s strong opposition to any attempt by the administration to alter guidance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. “The evaluation of existing regulations and guidance for the purpose of repeal, replacement or modification is unconventional and ill-advised and CEC opposes such action.”

Education Week  noted that 50 of the regulations predate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was passed in November 2004. It also noted that the act itself puts strict limits on the ability of administrative action alter it. To do that would require Congressional action.

October 22, 2017

 

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