May 5, 2016

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AASA Call to Action: Comment on Proposed IDEA Regs

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education proposed new regulations on how states and districts will calculate significant disproportionality under IDEA. Their proposal will result in a significant increase in the number of districts that must set-aside 15% of IDEA Part B funds to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality of special education students. Based on the Department’s projections 23 states will require between 50-80% of all districts to set-aside 15% of their federal share for early intervening services to remedy significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in at least one disability, educational environment or discipline category. Nationally, a minimum of $550 million dollars will be redirected to early intervening services.

While we acknowledge that racial and ethnic is disproportionality is an important and complex problem for districts to address, AASA has very substantive concerns with the Department’s proposal and how districts may be inappropriately identified as having significant disproportionality. As school leaders responsible for compliance with IDEA we urge you to take action on these regulations right away. The deadline to submit comments is May 16th. Submitting the comments directly is super easy—simply complete the form here. Below is a summary of the parts of the proposed regulations we support and oppose, so you have a better understanding of the issues.  

Our concerns with the proposed regulations are as follows: 

  • If States must adopt a more rigorous methodology for measuring significant disproportionality, then States must also have greater flexibility in exempting districts from setting aside Part B funds to address this issue. Specifically, very small districts, districts with specialized schools, districts with highly regarded programs for students with disabilities in states with popular open-enrollment policies, districts with high numbers of students in foster care, districts recovering from an environmental or health disaster and districts with very low rates of special education identification, restrictive placements or exclusionary discipline for all students should not be automatically required to set-aside funding.  
  • The Department should not expand the data collection around significant disproportionality to track the placement rates of students who spend between 40-80% of their time in the general education classroom. Reporting on whether a child spends 65 percent versus 80 percent of his time in a general education classroom says nothing about the severity of his disability, the classroom supports he receives, or the quality of services he may obtain in that setting. 
  • A mandatory “n” size of ten may result in many small districts being identified for significant disproportionality. There is no data suggesting ten is the right number or an appropriate one. There is no federal “n” size in ESSA or any other federal education law. States are best positioned to set the “n” size.
  • A requirement that significant disproportionality be examined and addressed for students with autism or other health impairments is highly inappropriate given that it is rare that a district diagnoses a student as having one of these disabilities. 

There are aspects of the proposed regulations we do support: 

  • We support allowing early intervening services like RTI/MTSS to be used on students with disabilities as well as students not yet identified as disabled. 
  • We support requiring states to relying on 3 years of data before deciding a district must address significant disproportionality.  
  • We support allowing States to exempt districts that show reasonable progress in addressing significant disproportionality from setting aside more funds.  

Please take a few minutes to comment on these critical changes to IDEA’s significant disproportionality calculations. To comment directly, go to: and complete the form.