Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Special Education

What Biden’s Pick for Ed. Secretary Discussed With Disability Rights Advocates

By Evie Blad — January 13, 2021 2 min read
Miguel Cardona, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Education, speaks after being introduced at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, as Biden, right, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, look on.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Advocates for students with disabilities met with President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for education secretary this week to voice concerns about issues ranging from school discipline to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on special education services.

If confirmed by the Senate to the cabinet role, current Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona could play a significant role in special education at a time when advocates fear that many students with disabilities have been left behind during rolling school closures and remote instruction.

For all of the talk of issues like charter schools after Cardona was announced as Biden’s choice, Cardona’s impact on special education could be much more significant. Biden has pledged to “fully fund” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act within 10 years, and he’s promised to make civil rights a priority.

In the meeting with representatives from dozens of organizations, Cardona “affirmed participants’ comments that we must challenge a deficit mentality, noting that all students have diverse abilities and their abilities make schools better,” according to a summary provided by the Biden transition team. “He himself has seen firsthand how schools with diverse populations created a culture of community.”

Here are a few issues discussed at the meeting, according to the transition team.

Equity and the COVID-19 Crisis: Families and disability rights organizations have long sounded alarms about whether schools have provided adequate special education services. Those concerns went into overdrive last spring when schools around the country closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Participants noted the disproportionate effects the pandemic has exacerbated for students with disabilities, particularly around access and equity,” the summary of Tuesday’s meeting said.

Families have told Education Week about struggles to get remote learning apps to work with adaptive technologies, like screen readers. They’ve had difficulties accessing therapies and services mandated in students’ special education plans. And they’ve expressed concern about compensatory services needed to make up for interrupted learning time.

School districts, meanwhile, have said it is difficult to meet some of the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act during an unprecedented time for schools . Last year, former education secretary Betsy DeVos opposed waivers from the special education law except in a few narrow instances, however, and Congress has not authorized sweeping waivers from the IDEA.

School Discipline for Students With Disabilities: Federal data show students with disabilities are disciplined at school at higher rates than their peers, and that imbalance is even more pronounced for students of color.

Groups like the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights have called for the reinstatement of Obama-era civil rights guidance on school discipline, which the Trump administration rescinded.

The Trump administration also sought to delay a federal rule concerning how districts identify minority students for special education, discipline them, or place them in restrictive settings. That effort was later halted by a judge.

Higher Education: Representatives at the meeting also discussed concerns about access to higher education and employment opportunities, the transition team said.

That discussion included topics like financial aid and universal design for students with disabilities.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Opinion Inclusive Teachers Must Be 'Asset-Based Believers'
Four veteran educators share tips on supporting students with learning differences as they return to classrooms during this pandemic year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Special Education Opinion 20 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences This Year
Embed student voices and perspectives into the classroom is one piece of advice educators offer in this third pandemic-affected school year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Special Education Schools Must Identify Students With Disabilities Despite Pandemic Hurdles, Ed. Dept. Says
Guidance stresses schools' responsibilities to those with disabilities, while noting that federal COVID aid can be used to address backlogs.
2 min read
School children in classroom with teacher, wearing face masks and raised hands
DigitalVision/Vectors/Getty
Special Education Attention Deficit Rates Skyrocket in High School. Mentoring Could Prevent an Academic Freefall
Twice as many students are diagnosed with ADHD in high school as in elementary school, yet their supports are fewer, a study says.
4 min read
Image of a child writing the letters "ADHD" on a chalkboard.
Getty