Additional Education Position Statements for 2017 

ASHA has taken a position on the following issue related to education.  

Role of the U.S. Department of Education  

Oppose proposals that would abolish and/or significantly diminish the role of the U.S. Department of Education's (ED) oversight of education policies and programs at the state and local level, which ensure high standards and equitable access to educational opportunities for students across the lifespan.  

Rationale: In order to ensure that every student is college and career ready, and competitive in the global market, ED is vital in fostering educational excellence. The federal loan program administered by ED contributes toward making college accessible for students. In addition, ED helps foster research and innovation at the federal level and disseminates the data and research, which assists states and local education agencies in their decision making. 

A major role of ED is to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education that meets certain standards. Absent federal standards, there are huge disparities among states. The Department also works to prohibit discrimination and ensure equitable access to education for all students. The Department plays a critical role in education, special education, students living in poverty, English language learners, and other students at risk. ED monitors state and local education agencies to ensure compliance with federal education policies such as the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Individuals With Disabilities Act, and the Higher Education Act. Although states and local education agencies should have the flexibility to implement policies specific for their communities, ED plays a critical role in monitoring and ensuring compliance. ED also provides valuable guidance on best practices that can be used by local school systems to enhance student success. 

Although ASHA works closely with all ED departments, noteworthy for audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are the Offices of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and the Office of Civil Rights. OSERS is committed to improving results and outcomes for people of all ages who have disabilities. It supports programs that serve millions of children, youth, and people with disabilities. ED's oversight ensures that states comply with federal disability education policies that help improve results and outcomes for individuals with disabilities. 

An example of appropriate OSERS' oversight comes in the form of guidance to state and local education agencies. Recently, ASHA members expressed concerns regarding the provision of free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for students living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). At issue was widespread local determination that children with ASD should be provided with only applied behavioral analysis therapy without a full evaluation of their needs. ED provided clarification and guidance to the states that enforced Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provisions related to FAPE and expressed that SLPs and other service providers should not be excluded from evaluating and providing services to children with ASD.  

The Office of Civil Rights ensures equitable access to education through enforcement of civil rights laws—such as IDEA—in the schools.  

Parent's Right to Choose 

Support a parent's right to choose the best education for their children and maintains that principles regarding access, funding, accountability, and privacy must be included in any education reform legislation. These principles are core concepts that must be included in any reform.  

Rationale: The Trump Administration has signaled its strong intent to allow more choices to the current public education system. It is unclear how the Administration will go about making changes to the education system. ASHA supports a parent's right to choose the best education for their children and maintains that the following principles are core concepts and be included in any education reform legislation: 

  • Parents must be provided detailed and accurate information regarding consequences of choosing to move their child out of a traditional public school, including, but not limited to, the provision of appropriate services, the qualifications of providers, and due process protections.
  • Maintenance of adequate funding for traditional public schools.
  • Schools that benefit from public funding must do the following: 
    • Maintain the same or higher standards for curriculum as traditional public schools.
    • Ensure and report student achievement in alignment with traditional public schools.
    • Provide the full continuum of both special education and general education service. 
    • Uphold equitable access to education for families and children with disabilities, (e.g., Compliance with IDEA, Section 504, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and other civil rights laws that impact traditional public schools. 
    • Ensure equity for all students, especially those students who require access to services and supports under IDEA, Section 504, and ADA. 
    • Employ instructional staff who meet state education agency credentialing requirements. 
  • Ensure that funding follows the student, including those students who are returning to traditional public schools. 
  • Ensure privacy protections under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) are upheld. 

Conclusion

It is unclear how the Administration will go about making changes to the U.S. education system. The principles outlined in this document are core concepts that must be included in any reform. 

Student achievement ought to be the driving force behind any education reform initiative. Americans want consistent and measurable standards for students. Where vouchers or tax credits are in place, a two-tiered system has been set up that holds students in public and private schools to different standards. Any school that accepts or receives public funding (e.g., vouchers, tax credits, donations from individuals and corporations) must adhere to the same standards as those adhered to by traditional public schools. Private schools with designed programs that address select disabilities should not be penalized for not accepting students with other disabilities. 

Federal education programs such as Title I for low-income students and IDEA for students with disabilities have never been fully funded. Forgoing tax revenue through credits and cutting funding for these critical programs place additional strain on school districts, educators, service providers, and students. It is critical that these foundational programs are funded as set forth in prior legislation before creation of new programs is implemented.  

Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act 

Oppose the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act that would establish a new precedent of placing visual and hearing disabilities ahead of others identified in IDEA by adding specific disability-related mandates and requiring additional resources to accommodate only visual and hearing disabilities.  

Rationale: ASHA opposes the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act. Although well intended, the legislation establishes a new precedent of placing visual and hearing disabilities ahead of others identified in IDEA by adding specific disability-related mandates and requiring additional resources to accommodate only visual and hearing disabilities. In addition, not only is the bill redundant of current IDEA mandates, but it fails to recognize the full scope of services and personnel available to children and students who are hard of hearing, deaf, and/or deaf-blind. 

The legislation amends the IDEA to require a state to identify, evaluate, and provide special education and related services to children who have visual or hearing disabilities (or both) and who also are, or may be, classified as deaf-blind. A state must ensure (a) that it has enough qualified personnel to serve children with these disabilities and (b) that a full continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of children with disabilities for special education and related services. In addition, the legislation stipulates that a state's closure of a special school serving deaf or blind children shall count as a reduction of its financial support for special education and related services for purposes of the prohibition against reducing state financial support for such services from one fiscal year to the next. 

The bill also  

(a) authorizes grants for training special education personnel, to be used in preparing individuals to become qualified teachers and early intervention specialists for children with hearing disabilities and  

(b) establishes within the ED the Anne Sullivan Macy Center on Visual Disability and Educational Excellence to better support students with visual disabilities. 

The individualized education program for each child who is either (or both) visually or hearing impaired must include specified components and must provide the child with instruction that meets the child's unique learning needs. In a similar way, the individualized family service plan for an infant or toddler with a hearing disability must include specified components. In mandating how to meet the needs of students, the Act references only two forms of communication—American Sign Language and spoken English—but fails to reference alternate modalities such as cued speech. 

ASHA supports appropriate accommodations for students with visual and/or hearing disabilities and believes that the current mandates in IDEA address the needs of these individuals. 

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