President’s Proposed Budget Could Significantly Affect Special Education Although a proposal—not law—the funding plan signals the administration’s priorities and interests. Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   August 01, 2017
President’s Proposed Budget Could Significantly Affect Special Education
Author Notes
  • Janet Deppe, MS, CCC-SLP, is ASHA director of state advocacy. jdeppe@asha.org
    Janet Deppe, MS, CCC-SLP, is ASHA director of state advocacy. jdeppe@asha.org×
  • Ingrida Lusis is ASHA director of federal and political advocacy. ilusis@asha.org
    Ingrida Lusis is ASHA director of federal and political advocacy. ilusis@asha.org×
  • Catherine Clarke, ASHA director of education and regulatory advocacy, and Neil Snyder, director of federal advocacy, also contributed to this article.
    Catherine Clarke, ASHA director of education and regulatory advocacy, and Neil Snyder, director of federal advocacy, also contributed to this article.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   August 01, 2017
President’s Proposed Budget Could Significantly Affect Special Education
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 28-29. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.22082017.28
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 28-29. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.22082017.28
The Trump administration’s regulatory changes and proposed education budget present some uncertainties for school officials regarding programs and policies benefiting students with communication disorders.
The proposal, which both houses of Congress now will consider and change, seeks to cut the Department of Education budget by $9.2 billion, while setting aside $1.4 billion to support new investments in public and private school choice programs. This figure includes voucher programs for charter, private and religious schools. The proposal represents a 13-percent reduction in the department’s budget from the current 2017 level.
The main components of the proposal include workforce reductions, voucher program funding and federal oversight of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The administration’s proposed health care initiatives related to Medicaid also affect school-based services for communication disorders.
ASHA’s advocacy efforts on any federal education-related proposals are guided by three education position statements approved by the ASHA Board of Directors earlier this year.
Workforce reduction
The budget proposal aims to reduce perceived inefficiencies in the Department of Education. Early in the president’s term, the Department of Education rescinded a number of key guidance documents for states to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including accountability provisions and teacher preparation regulations. Without the federal regulations, the administration has directed states to develop their own ESSA implementation plans.
This move is viewed as part of the president’s plan to diminish the role of the Department of Education. ASHA’s first education position statement opposes any proposal that would abolish or significantly diminish the role of the department’s oversight of state and local education policies and programs, which ensures high standards and equitable access to education for students of all ages.
Voucher program funding
Betsy DeVos, the new secretary of education, is a longtime supporter of education voucher programs and has reiterated her support for streamlining the department and reducing the role of federal oversight. DeVos supports the president’s budget proposal and endorses setting aside funds to promote school choice and vouchers.
In its second position statement, ASHA supports a parent’s right to choose the best education for their child. However, ASHA is concerned that proposed reductions in public education funding will result in poorer schools with fewer resources, fewer qualified teachers and specialized instructional support personnel (SISP), and more students with disabilities and their families without means relegated to low-performing, poorly funded public schools. The position statement reiterates several principles necessary to protect children with disabilities and public education.
These include:
  • Providing families with information about the consequences of choosing to move their child out of a public school (potential loss of services and qualified providers available to their child, as well as loss of due process protections under the free and appropriate education [FAPE] provisions of IDEA).

  • Ensuring that student achievement data must be reported and aligned with public school requirements.

  • Requiring private/voucher programs (with the exception of specialized programs) to provide the full range of general and special education services.

  • Requiring private and voucher programs to uphold equal access to education for children with disabilities and comply with federal civil rights laws and federal privacy laws.

  • Ensuring that instructional staff meet state education agency credentialing requirements.

  • Ensuring that funding follows students who choose to return to public schools.

Federal IDEA oversight
DeVos supports streamlining federal oversight in education, including IDEA, and maintains that states should choose how to implement education provisions. ASHA is concerned how, under this scenario, the many protections of IDEA—including FAPE—will be maintained for students with disabilities.
A recent Supreme Court ruling—in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District—held that to meet its substantive obligation under IDEA, a school must offer an “individualized education program” that allows a child to make progress appropriate to the child’s abilities. This ruling, in effect, rejects educational programs that provide a student with the minimum amount of progress (known as the “de minimus” standard for services under IDEA).
Because of this ruling, there will be more scrutiny of public education, and districts will be held to greater accountability standards in providing programs that yield appropriate student progress. With significant cuts to education funding, public programs may face difficulties in providing high-quality programs for students with disabilities.

With significant cuts to education funding, public programs may face difficulties in providing high-quality programs for students with disabilities.

School-based Medicaid
In addition, various iterations of proposed health care reform include substantial cuts to Medicaid and alternatives such as per capita caps and block grants for medically necessary services. Governors from many states are concerned about these approaches, as are many professional organizations whose members provide services to Medicaid beneficiaries.
Under block grants, for example, a state would receive a fixed amount of Medicaid funding based on its current enrollment. States could choose to include and exclude any number of services, including medically necessary services provided in schools.
Similarly, with per-capita caps, the federal government would provide a fixed amount for each person in the state program based on 2016 spending, with no provision to adjust the amount based on beneficiary need. Many states have made—and are continuing to make—significant cuts to Medicaid funding, and additional cuts through block grants and per-capita caps could have a severe impact.
Medicaid provides significant funding for school-based services for student with disabilities. The federal share of IDEA funding—although mandated but never funded at 40 percent—continues to shrink and is now about 16 percent. Without Medicaid support, states that can’t make up the difference may have to cut services to children with disabilities.
ASHA’s position on Medicaid funding reiterates the need for school-based medically necessary services. Per-capita caps or block grants will severely limit access to essential services, as reduced funds would dis-incentivize state Medicaid agencies to cover school-based services.

The federal share of IDEA funding—although mandated but never funded at 40 percent—continues to shrink and is now about 16 percent. Without Medicaid support, states that can’t make up the difference may have to cut services to children with disabilities.

How to help
ASHA continues to promote policies and solutions that provide appropriate coverage and access to services in public education in any education reform. Federal and state decision-makers need to hear from state association leaders and individual members about the need to preserve programs and services for students with disabilities. Here are some suggestions:
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August 2017
Volume 22, Issue 8