Monday, April 6, 2020
CAST is asking US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos not to recommend to Congress any additional waivers for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 since doing so would reduce the civil rights and learning opportunities for students with disabilities. More than 7 million children in the United States depend on IDEA and Section 504 to receive necessary special education supports, services, instruction, and protections.
The Secretary is required to advise Congress on waivers later this month as part of the CARES Act passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CAST's individual letter along with a letter jointly signed by CAST and more than 70 national disability, advocacy, and civil rights organizations was sent by CEO Linda Gerstle on Friday, April 3, 2020.
Dear Secretary DeVos and Acting Assistant Secretary Schultz,
I am writing to urge you when you report later this month to Congress to ask for no additional waiver authority under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab Act), and other laws regarding the education of students with disabilities.
Since 1984, CAST (originally the Center for Applied Special Technology) has worked relentlessly to ensure that our nation is one where learning has no limits for all individuals. We pioneered Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a set of principles and guidelines for inclusive curriculum design that is now endorsed by the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Higher Education Opportunity Act, and the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). Since 1999, we have led USDOE-funded efforts to support State and Local Education Agencies in providing accessible educational materials, most recently through the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM Center). We are also engaged with teachers and students across the United States in implementing the UDL framework—including during this unusual transition to online and remote learning.
Without question, our work with States, districts, schools, and individual educators, as well as students and parents, convinces us that NO ADDITIONAL waivers are necessary under either the IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehab Act.
To be clear, we understand how complex this crisis is. However, we endorse the position of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities as spelled out in their letter to you dated April 3, 2020 (attached). Individuals with disabilities and their families are depending on us to support them in their civil and human rights to receive a high-quality education, even in these difficult circumstances.
We applaud the ways that OSERS and the Department of Education are already leveraging current investments and projects to provide much-needed technical assistance to help educators and parents support children’s learning amidst these challenging times. Rather than requesting additional waiver authority under IDEA or the Rehab Act, we urge you to continue providing this high-quality TA so that SEAs and LEAs can simultaneously address this crisis and uphold students’ civil rights within the flexibility which IDEA and the Rehab Act already provide.
Linda Gerstle CEO