By Julia Burkstaller, The Arc Minnesota Public Policy Director
We are officially in Back-to-School season. While there are many things to consider in preparing for school, we want to ensure students who have disabilities and their families understand how they can get the support they need this year.
This bill supports students who have disabilities to recover learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and during distance learning. The commissioner of education, school districts, or charter schools must invite parents and families of students with disabilities to a meeting of each individualized education program (IEP) team.
Webinar about assistive technology options for daily living
Thursday, August 26, 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Learn about assistive technology from providers and industry experts about low- to mid-tech devices and equipment that people can use to help maintain or increase their independence at home. Presenters will provide a room-by-room virtual tour to show how a variety of technologies can be used at home to assist with everyday living.
No registration required. Click on the webinar link to join when webinar starts.
Virtual Forum: Local Elections, Voting Rights, & Accessibility for People With Disabilities
Tuesday, September 14th 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
The presentation will focus on voting in local elections, who is eligible to vote, how to vote, voter accessibility, and Ranked Choice Voting for voters who live in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We hope you can join us for this timely and informative conversation on the importance of voting during the upcoming election.
Action Alerts From The Arc US: Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA)
The Keeping All Students Safe Act, reintroduced this May in Congress by Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08), Sen. Chis Murphy (CT), Chairman Bobby Scott (VA-03), Chair Patty Murray (WA), and Rep. Donald McEachin (VA-04) would make it illegal for any school receiving federal funds to use dangerous restraint and seclusion practices.
Every child should be safe at school—unfortunately that is not always the case. Each year a staggering number of students are subjected to seclusion and restraint practices. The most current data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) shows 101,990 students were subjected to seclusion or restraint during the 2017-18 school year—78 percent of whom were students who have disabilities, disproportionately Black students and boys. The CRDC data may even be an under-estimation of the actual number of incidents due to reporting issues and insufficient quality control measures. It is difficult to truly understand the full scope of seclusion and restraint incidents in schools.
Specifically, the Keeping All Students Safe Act would:
Establish minimum safety standards in schools by:
Prohibiting seclusion, mechanical restraints, chemical restraints, physical restraint that restricts breathing or is life threatening, and any form of aversive behavioral intervention;
Requiring certification of staff conducting physical restraint that meets the minimum standards;
Prohibiting physical restraint as a planned intervention; and
Requiring parental notification and follow-up meetings if a physical restraint occurs.
Support states by providing better training to ensure student and staff safety and establishing monitoring and enforcement systems by:
Requiring each state to have its own policies, procedures, monitoring, and enforcement systems in place to meet the minimum standards within two years of the law’s enactment;
Providing grant funding for states to establish, implement, and enforce the policies and procedures required by the law; and
Improving state and local capacity to analyze the data and improve school climate and culture.
Increase transparency, oversight, and enforcement to prevent future abuse and death by:
Requiring states to collect and report data on the use of seclusion and restraint annually; and
Making data about restraint and seclusion publicly available while protecting student privacy, including data on the number of incidents, injuries, cases of death, and the demographic breakdown.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Please urge drafters of the reconciliation package to include $900 million for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Section 662, Personnel Preparation.
48 states and the District of Columbia reported a shortage of special educators in the 2020-2021 school year— with this area being the most severe shortage for most states. At least 41 states reported shortages in practitioners serving infants and toddlers with disabilities. The national shortages are persistent and detrimental to children eligible for IDEA services- a growing number of children who are legally required to be served by “qualified personnel.”
Part D Personnel Preparation funds prepare new special educators, early interventionists, and specialized instructional support personnel, replenishing the workforce. Current program estimates indicate a $900 million investment could fully address the growing shortages over the next 10 years.
From Our Friends at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities:
On August 10, 2021, the Senate passed the $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. If passed in the House of Representatives, this bill will create historic levels of investment in our national infrastructure and promote an equitable economic recovery that will improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.
More than 800,000 Americans are currently on waiting lists for home and community based services (HCBS). Additionally, 48 million Americans currently serve as caregivers for their family members, meaning they are not accessing, or are underserved by, HCBS. If Congress is to truly represent its constituents—one in five of whom have a disability—they must prioritize the disability community in the final budget reconciliation process.
Our nation’s infrastructure must include access to HCBS and other supports in one’s community. During recent infrastructure negotiations, Congress deprioritized the $400 billion that was initially pledged for HCBS. Meanwhile, more than 8 million people in the U.S. need assistance with daily care tasks; a number that is growing under the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People with disabilities deserve to have full control and autonomy over their lives and their care decisions. That means having multiple, high-quality options for care from which they can make the best decision for themselves and their families. To make that a reality, we must see the Better Care Better Jobs Act be included, prioritized, and fully funded in the budget reconciliation process” said the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)’s President and CEO Maria Town.
Noteworthy News & Resources
Image from the 2021 Legislative Session Celebration
The Arc Minnesota 2021 Legislative Session Celebration
On Monday, August 16th, we recognized four individuals for their contributions to important bills passed during the 2021 legislative session. Award recipients include:
Senator: Sen. Jim Abeler
Representative: Rep. Heather Edelson
Agency Partner: Kristy Graume (Department of Human Services)
Community Partner: Noah McCourt
As the chair of the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy committee, Sen. Abeler ensured we passed policies that promote informed choice and individualized options for people who have disabilities. This year, our Systems Transformation bill passed, thanks to Sen. Abeler’s support. Our bill creates a definition of informed choice and highlights informed choice in the Public Policy Statements that passed last year which demonstrated a commitment to competitive, integrated employment, homes of individuals’ choice, and self-directed supports for people who have disabilities. We are grateful for Sen. Abeler’s partnership in passing transformational policy and for his commitment to making sure people who have disabilities and their families can build true belonging in their communities. Rep. Edelson Rep. Edelson was the chief author in the House of our Recovery Education bill. Thanks to the advocacy and support of Rep. Edelson, students who have disabilities will receive support to recover learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Edelson has shared that as a parent of children who have received support through special education services, she personally understands the importance of these supports and how even more crucial they became throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of dedicated legislators like Rep. Edelson, The Arc Minnesota is able to work on crucial policies that make a difference in the lives of people who have disabilities and their families. We are thankful for Rep. Edelson and all she did to get this bill passed and for your commitment to high quality education for all students.
Kristy Graume As Legislative Director in the Community Supports Administration at the Department of Human Services, Kristy Graume was instrumental in promoting transformational policy in the Health and Human Services omnibus bill. When the state of Minnesota received relief funding from the federal government, Kristy and her team considered carefully how to make the most impact with that funding. We appreciate thoughtful advocates like Kristy who are in important positions but maintain a focus on the bigger goals of transforming our systems—therefore, ensuring Minnesotans who have disabilities feel and have true belonging in their communities. Thanks to Kristy, Minnesota passed monumental policy changes which reinforce our state’s commitment to informed choice and informed-decision making for people who have disabilities. The Arc Minnesota is so grateful for partners like Kristy as we advocate for policy change beyond the status quo.
Noah McCourt Noah is a fierce disability-rights advocate who identifies as a person with autism. Noah spends much of his time and work in the disability justice movement on issues related to employment, health care/mental health, the criminal justice system, and beyond. He is being honored for his work in advocating for competitive and integrative inclusive employment for people who have disabilities. He was involved in bringing forward a bill to phase out subminimum wage during the 2020 legislative session. Because of his efforts, a bill to establish a task force to develop and implement a plan to phase out subminimum wage by August 2025 passed this session. The Arc Minnesota appreciates and admires Noah’s persistence and commitment to the rights of people who have disabilities.
National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS):
The National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS) calls for the repeal of Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In acknowledgment of and respect for individuals with disabilities, the NASDDDS Board of Directors believes the time has come to move away from the practice of allowing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other significant disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage. This practice is currently enabled by Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Advancing competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities requires coordinated and adequate resources across Medicaid HCBS programs, vocational rehabilitation, education and workforce development systems. NASDDDS stands committed to assisting states through this journey. Several states have already successfully ended use of subminimum wages and have expanded the service capacity of their provider networks to deliver services and supports that leads to inclusion of individuals' with disabilities in the economic and social fabric of their communities. We can learn from these early adopters and NASDDDS will facilitate this peer-to-peer learning.