As a result of The Arc Maryland’s advocacy, several bills are moving forward:
- SB 872/HB 971, the James W. Hubbard Inclusive Higher Education Grant Program, passed in both the full Senate and the House Ways and Means Committee;
- HB 1061, which creates a task force to study emergency and evacuation plans for students, staff, and visitors with disabilities in public schools, passed in the House Ways and Means Committee;
- HB 1/SB 230, The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, which provides paid family leave, passed the House; and
- SB 1013, which allows the licensure of dental therapists, had a hearing in the Senate Education Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.
The Arc Maryland continued their robust legislative advocacy last week. They testified in favor of several bills including:
- SB 872, The James W. Hubbard Inclusive Higher Education Grant Program, which would create competitive grants for universities to develop inclusive higher education programs for students with I/DD;
- HB 1061, which creates a task force to study and make recommendations on how to properly accommodate students with disabilities during emergencies and evacuations;
- HB 696/SB 849, which prohibits discrimination in private schools accepting public funds based on disability or other protected statuses;
- HB 1066, which aligns school fire drill procedures with the Maryland Fire Prevention Code and which The Arc Maryland is seeking to amend to address disability accommodations;
- HB 1222, the Maryland School Discipline Reform Act, which requires reporting of student discipline data disaggregated by disability and other statuses and requires standardized training practices on student discipline for public school security personnel;
- HB 1287, which creates a commission to explore ways to close the school-to-prison pipeline that is disproportionately leading students with disabilities into prison or juvenile detention centers; and
- The Developmental Disabilities Administration Budget.
The Arc of Virginia, as part of the Developmental Disabilities (DD) Coalition, recently released a legislative agenda. Priorities include reduction in the DD Waiver waiting list, inclusive education, completing the closure of the two remaining institutions, transparency and accountability in the DD Waiver system, and Medicaid Early Intervention Targeted Case Management.
In early January, The Arc and The Arc Connecticut filed an amicus brief in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell before the Supreme Court of Connecticut. The brief argues that the trial court’s requirement that the state adopt standards that focus its special education efforts on students “who can profit from some form of elementary and secondary education,” rather than “spend fruitlessly on some at the expense of others,” violates the IDEA, which mandates that all students with disabilities be provided a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. The brief focuses on research demonstrating that even students with the most severe disabilities can learn and often exceed expectations, the legislative history of the IDEA making clear that all students with disabilities are guaranteed the right to an education, and the fact that failure to educate these students violates the ADA’s “integration mandate” which has been vital in ensuring that people with disabilities have access to opportunities that allow them to live in the community, learn in general education settings, obtain post-secondary education, and work in integrated jobs at competitive wages. The full brief can be found here. Recently, the Hartford Courant covered The Arc’s work challenging this decision and quoted Shannon Jacovino, The Arc Connecticut’s Director of Public Policy as saying: “Intentionally or not, Moukawsher’s ruling pits special education students against regular education students. If this happened with students’ race or religion, there would be a massive outcry.” The full article can be found here.
Leo Sarkissian, the Executive Director of The Arc of Massachusetts, was interviewed on CBS Boston as a result of Prudential Tower choosing to be lit up in orange to raise awareness of The Arc’s advocacy work. The Prudential Center selects a nonprofit partner for each night in December and lights the Prudential Tower in the organization’s color. During the interview, Sarkissian spoke about the chapter’s advocacy work around community inclusion and employment and highlighted the importance of basic civil rights enforcement for people with I/DD.