HELP Committee Holds Confirmation Hearings on Civil Rights and Special Education Leaders for Department of Education

There is a lot of end of the year activity in Washington that can impact the implementation of special education services, including assistive technology in charter & private schools, and the implications of the Endrew F. vs. Douglas County School District supreme court decision for defining FAPE in publich schools.

From Jane E. West PhD:

On December 5, the Senate HELP Committee held a confirmation hearing for two key nominees at the Department of Education:  Kenneth Marcus to lead the Office for Civil Rights and Johnny Collett to lead the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.  Marcus faced intense questioning from Democrats about the Department’s scrapping guidance related to transgender students, revising campus sexual assault rules and relaxed enforcement of civil rights laws by shying away from investigating possible systemic discrimination.

Collett faced questions about the possible roll back or delay of regulations which set out a formula for states to determine disproportionality in special education and address it and vouchers for students with disabilities.  He was asked if he thought the Department of Education should notify parents of students who use vouchers that they would be losing their rights under IDEA, to which he responded that he did not think the Department had the authority to do that.  He said he would work with stakeholders to consider the recommendations of a recent GAO report documenting parents’ lack of awareness of their loss of rights when they choose to use vouchers for private schools.

Sen. Alexander (R-TN) , Committee Chair, asked all nominees if guidance had the force of law, to which they replied “no.”  Alexander is a staunch critic of President Obama’s proliferation of guidance and his Administration’s efforts to enforce it.

The Committee could vote on these nominees before the holiday break.   It would be surprising if they are rejected by the Committee.  The question is how much Democratic support will they receive.

See hearing here:

Department of Education Issues  Q & A on Endrew  IDEA Supreme Court Decision

Following the March 2017 Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. v Douglas County School District, the Department of Education issued a Q and A clarifying the scope and purpose of a free appropriate education which is required under the law.  The Q&A explains the case and provides a summary of the Court’s final decision and prior case law addressing the FAPE standard. The document also explains how FAPE is currently defined and clarifies the standard for determining FAPE.