April 15, 2015
Chairman Lamar Alexander
Ranking Member Patty Murray
Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions
428 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray,
I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency with a mandate to provide advice and counsel to the Congress and President regarding disability policy issues. NCD appreciates the demonstrated bipartisan leadership that resulted in the negotiated draft legislation to reauthorize the ESEA released last week and currently being debated in Committee. Early in the 114th Congress, NCD released recommendations intended to inform the reauthorization process with respect to the needs of students with disabilities, who share the same need for education as all students but who have historically faced barriers to meaningful access to what is increasingly the most secure route to economic opportunity. Those recommendations are available on our website at /policy/education.
The “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015” makes a laudable effort to make sure that students with disabilities reap the benefits of a quality education. Maintaining the 1% cap on students with disabilities taking alternate assessments and ensuring that students with disabilities have access to a rigorous academic curriculum are among the important provisions that make this bill a step in the right direction for students with disabilities.
However, NCD is concerned that the bill lacks meaningful accountability to ensure a high quality education for all students, including students with disabilities. NCD believes that the bill’s shift in emphasis to local control and innovation within the states must not be at the expense of a robust accountability structure. For this reason, NCD believes that the Department of Education needs to retain an important oversight role to this end. NCD looks forward to working with the committee and other stakeholders towards a reauthorization of ESEA that will strike the right balance between local control and accountability and make the American education system stronger, more inclusive and more effective than ever so that every student, including students with disabilities, is provided an opportunity to achieve their full potential. Please do not hesitate to contact our Director of Legislative Affairs, Anne Sommers, at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have.