The Arc Pennsylvania signed onto a letter in opposition to HB 1717. This bill creates redirects an amount equal to 90% of the average per-student state funding in a school district into an “individual empowerment scholarship account” for each student whose parents enroll them in a private school. Eligible students include students with disabilities, student in low-performing districts, and children of service members on active duty or killed in the line of duty. Schools accepting these funds are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race or national origin, but not on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or even disability. Furthermore, participating non-public schools will not be required to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Thus, this program drains funds from public schools and directs them toward private schools where students with disabilities are not guaranteed an appropriate education or freedom from discrimination.
The Arc Washington and The Arc King County joined other disability organizations in filing an amicus brief in the case McCleary v. Washington. In this case, the Supreme Court of Washington ruled that the statewide school funding scheme was inadequate and in violation of the state constitution. The court imposed a $100,000/day fine on the state until the state develops an adequate funding scheme. The state is now seeking to lift that sanction. The Arc’s amicus brief explains that the state is still in violation of its constitution because it limits the percentage of students receiving special education services for whom a district can receive enhanced funding and, therefore, discriminates against students in districts with an above-average proportion of students receiving special education services. The full brief can be found here.
As a result of advocacy by The Arc Pennsylvania, HB 218, the state budget, which offered the highest level of support for people with disabilities in recent years, passed both houses of the legislature and became law. The budget includes:
- 1000 slots for a new Community Living Waiver capped at $70,000 per person per year;
- 820 Person/Family Directed Supports Waiver slots for special education graduates with ID and/or autism;
- 50 new Adult Autism Waiver slots; and
- Expansion of the Targeted Services Management State Plan to include more than 1,500 people with autism and/or ID on the waiting list.
The Baltimore Sun published an editorial discussing the sale of the Rosewood Center, a former state institution, to Stevenson University for $1 along with an agreement to pay $16 million to help cover the costs of cleaning up environmental contamination. The Arc Maryland has sought commitments from Stevenson University to provide scholarships for student with I/DD in conjunction with a new state program, adopt a curriculum to train graduates to work in the I/DD field, and provide employment opportunities for people with I/DD. The editorial states “The developmentally disabled community has waited far too long already for the kinds of opportunities the Arc is proposing.”
The Arc California is supporting SB 354, which requires school districts to translate IEPs and other communications with students and parents to their primary language. The bill passed the California Senate 30-6 and is pending in the Assembly Committee on Education.
The finalized budget for the State of Maryland contains many victories for The Arc Maryland including:
- A 3.5% waiver rate increase to cover the cost of compliance with the Minimum Wage Act of 2014;
- Funding for 789 individuals with I/DD aging out of the school system to receive employment and other day services;
- Waiver slots for the Crisis Resolution category, or the 101 individuals with the most urgent needs;
- Reducing the Family/Individual Support Capped Waiver and Community Support Capped Waiver Waiting lists by 400 each;
- The use of the Waiting List Equity Fund derived from the sale of state institutions and deinstitutionalizing to fund waivers for 36 individuals with priority given to those with the oldest caregivers;
- Community Services for 26 individuals with I/DD involved in the court system;
- $250,000 for inclusive higher education programs for students with I/DD;
- 100 new Autism Waiver slots; and
- A $3.7 million increase for pre-kindergarten education.
The Colorado General Assembly has adjourned with many victories for The Arc Colorado including:
- HB 1343, which creates a conflict free case management system, meaning that case management agencies cannot also be service providers, unless the only willing provider of case management in a region is also the only willing service provider;
- HB 1276, which bans prone, mechanical, or chemical restraint in public schools except in cases where a student displays a deadly weapon, it is performed by a trained police officer who has made a law enforcement referral, or it occurs at a school under the jurisdiction of the Division of Youth Corrections;
- HB 1087, which creates a pilot office of public guardianship for incapacitated adults without family or friends able to serve as guardian or enough money to pay a private guardian;
- HB 1046, which eliminates derogatory terms such as “mental retardation” and “mental deficiency” from state law and replaces them with “persons with an intellectual and developmental disability” and “persons with a mental illness”; and
- HB 1188, which makes harassment based on disability or sexual orientation a class 1 misdemeanor, bringing it to the same level as harassment based on race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin.
As a result of The Arc Maryland’s advocacy, the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council is partnering with the University of Maryland to expand capacity and improve quality of post-secondary education for students with intellectual disability. This partnership will be funded by a $250,000 line item in the Developmental Disabilities Administration budget and a $25,000 grant from the Think College National Coordinating Center. When recommending this initiative to the Maryland General Assembly, Governor Larry Hogan said “Our administration is committed to ensuring all Marylanders have the opportunity to live, work, and thrive in our state. Providing options for students with intellectual disabilities to continue their education with the goal of employment is essential to their future and our vision.”
As Governor Doug Ducey and legislature finalize the state budget, The Arc Arizona is seeking a $2 million increase in the Arizona Early Intervention Program (AzEIP). AzEIP provides services to infants and toddlers with significant developmental delays and disabilities. These evidence-based services at an early age have positive impacts on children and reduce the need for special education services when they reach school age. As many as 4,300 families could lose services without the increased funding.
The Arc California is advocating for passage of AB 45, which provides loans to school districts to construct affordable rental housing for teachers and other school employees. Special education funding was cut significantly during the recession. While funding has been restored, many laid-off special education teachers have retired or moved on to other jobs. This bill was introduced to alleviate the resulting teacher shortage.