Secretary DeVos Submits Waiver Requests to Congress
On Monday evening, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos submitted a request to Congress for temporary waiver authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act directed the Secretary to examine public education laws and report back with any requests for waivers of provisions needed due to school closures. Noting that finding solutions to keep educating students during the crisis is of the utmost importance, DeVos wrote, “the Department is heartened to see many positive examples across the nation of teachers, schools, LEAs, States, as well as Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies, rising to meet the needs of those who rely on them.”
The Secretary outlined her principles for reviewing laws and determining needed waivers: the health and safety of America’s students, teachers, parents, and administrators; learning must continue for all students; decision-making must be based on what is best for students, not the “system;” parents must be informed about the impact waivers will have on their children’s education and consent to those changes; and, services typically or historically provided in person must naturally occur differently.
Based on that criteria, DeVos requested two waivers of provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- The first is waiver authority to extend the IDEA Part B transition evaluation timeline. Waiving the timeline could enable toddlers who turn three to continue to receive Part C services until an initial evaluation for Part B can be safely conducted and eligibility is determined, but DeVos noted that clarity on funding would be necessary.
- The second is waiver authority to grant a deferral of the work or repayment requirement under Personnel Development Scholarships if the service obligation was interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This waiver would be consistent with the flexibility granted to the TEACH Grant program through the CARES Act. The letter also includes a request for waiver authority under various provisions of the Rehabilitation Act to offer flexibility on the spending down of funds and other technical changes.
To view Secretary DeVos’s letter to Congress, go here.
CEC’s Executive Director Responds to DeVos Waiver Requests
CEC’s Executive Director, Chad Rummel, responded to the letter to Congress requesting targeted waivers during the COVID-19 crisis. He praised the Department of Education for acknowledging the importance of continuing to educate students despite school closures and for upholding the core tenants of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including providing access to a free and appropriate public education.
He also reiterated the need for emergency funding for IDEA so that the work of educating students with exceptionalities can continue to move forward.
To view Executive Director Chad Rummel’s remarks, go here.