Ed Division Urged To Direct Extra COVID-19 Aid Funds To College students With Disabilities

A coalition of interest groups petition calls on the U.S. Department of Education to issue more guidance on caring for students with disabilities during the pandemic. (Anne Meadows / Flickr)

The U.S. Department of Education is being asked to instruct schools to direct significant funds from the recent COVID-19 relief bill to students with disabilities who did not receive benefits to which they were entitled during the pandemic.

A broad coalition of parents, teachers unions and disability advocates submitted an 80-page “Petition for Guidance” to the Ministry of Education this week. The move comes as school districts will see a huge inflow of money from the new law known as the American bailout plan.

“The department should issue guidance clarifying that funds from the ARP Act should be used to help disabled students recover from learning disabilities and delayed or pandemic services, and make proactive suggestions like this Money can be spent to support these students, “reads the petition from the nonprofit Advocacy Institute for the Disabled, along with parents of students with disabilities from around the country and teacher unions in Boston. Austin, Texas; Madison, Wis .; Milwaukee; Oakland, California and Los Angeles.

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The petition lists many longstanding problems related to disabled students – especially black students – that have been exaggerated by the pandemic.

“So far, the federal government has not given adequate oversight or issued meaningful guidelines to ensure that students with disabilities receive free, adequate public education during and after the pandemic,” the document says. “This petition respectfully calls on the department to take immediate action to prevent, mitigate and correct further learning loss and regression for these students.”

The new federal aid law provides $ 122.7 billion for K-12 schools, 20% of which must be used for programs to combat learning loss. The move includes an additional $ 3 billion in services provided under the Disability Awareness Act.

The coalition behind the petition wants the education department to make it clear to school districts that they can use recovery funds to hire paraducators, psychologists and other staff, create and implement 504 plans, and provide transportation so that students with disabilities can go to school in person and under Help other students with disabilities with distance learning technologies.

In addition, they want “meaningful instructions on how to ensure FAPE during the pandemic”. While the education department was clear that IDEA’s requirements would remain in effect, petitioners say the agency has few details and “has failed to address the difficult questions of the pandemic or specific standards or best practices for school education Districts should ensure that students with disabilities receive a FAPE. “

Education said it would look into the petition as soon as it was received. According to the law, the agency has 90 days to respond to the request.

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