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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Special Ed Changes Likely in Final Months of Obama Admin

From EducationDIVE

By Kate Schimel
October 14, 2015

Dive Brief
  • In a presentation at last week's meeting of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, two education lawyers told state and district leaders to expect a slew of guidance from the federal government on special education.
  • The government has issued 10 “Dear Colleague” letters in the past year, offering new or restated interpretations of special education law intended to guide states’ work.
  • Jason Ballum and Kathleen Mehfoud, lawyers with Reed Smith, a firm that represents 75 school boards, say as many as two dozen more could be on the way, as they are one of the final ways the Obama administration can shape policy as its final term winds down.

Dive Insight

The letters cover a range of issues, including departmental guidance on everything from parental complaint processes to therapy for autistic students and services for English language learners. They occupy an interesting space, as they aren't new laws or even new regulations and don't go through Congress or a rule-making process.

But Ballum and Mehfoud say the Education Department treats them as if they have the force of law when investigating civil rights or compliance complaints. That means the guidance can require major shifts from districts and states, and without giving them any official way to influence policy or push back.

Recommended Reading

Education Week: Special Education Directors Brace for Fresh Guidance

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