The U.S. Department of Education announced its next step toward addressing widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities, proposing a new rule to improve equity in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Part B of IDEA mandates that states must collect and examine data to determine whether significant disproportionality on the basis of race and ethnicity is occurring in the state, or its school districts, with respect to the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities. To ensure compliance with this provision of IDEA, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has proposed a new rule, Equity in IDEA.
The rule would require all states to use a standard methodology to identify significant disproportionality, alleviating the current wide range of state level definitions of the term and subsequent inconsistency in data reporting. Using this standard approach, states would analyze racial and ethnic disparities using a risk ratio, and select a reasonable risk ratio threshold to determine when racial and ethnic disparities have become significant. To facilitate this process, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services has developed an analysis, Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Special Education: A Multi-Year Disproportionality Analysis by State, Analysis Category, and Race/Ethnicity, that reports the number and percentage of school districts that would be identified with significant disproportionality if ED’s example risk ratio thresholds were adopted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
If this rule is adopted, any district that is then identified as having a significant disproportionality must set aside 15% of its IDEA Part B funds flagged for minority overrepresentation to coordinate expanded early intervening services. Currently, the money is limited only to benefit K-12 students who are not identified as having disabilities. The new proposed rule would loosen that restriction, allowing districts to use set-aside funds for students both with and without disabilities. The set-aside funds also could be used for children as young as 3.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is published in the Federal Register, with a subsequent 75-day timeline for public comment. Comments are due on May 16, 2016. Read the Federal Register notice. CEC will be responding to the NPRM. CEC members can send their comments to CEC at firstname.lastname@example.org.