The MLO Minute: By, Michael Connolly, Esq.
A provision of the Coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress last month required the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos to report back to Congress in 30 days with any recommendations for waivers of procedural or substantive requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Section 504”); which has caused much worry by many parents of students with disabilities and advocacy groups alike. The Secretary’s recommendations are in, and thankfully, the U.S. Department of Education is not requesting any waivers of “the core tenets” of the IDEA or Section 504, including the provision of a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”).
The Department is, however, recommending a limited waiver as it relates to transitioning from Part C of the IDEA (early intervention services/birth to age three) to Part B (age 3 through 21). Specifically, the Secretary explains:
- This waiver authority would provide the Secretary with the authority to extend the IDEA Part B transition evaluation timelines (Part B initial evaluation), such that calculation of a timeline obligation shall resume no later than the day on which health and safety factors allow for face-to- face meetings to resume and the toddler is able to be evaluated. This waiver authority would also include explicit authorization for Part C services to continue during the delayed Part B transition evaluation timeline so that a toddler may continue to receive Part C services after his or her third birthday and until a Part B evaluation is completed and an eligibility determination made. This flexibility should allow for CARES Act funds or other Federal education funds (e.g., IDEA Part B funds) to be used to provide these services.
A link to the full report can be found at https://www2.ed.gov/documents/coronavirus/cares-waiver-report.pdf . All in all, this is a victory for students with disabilities and their parents and disability advocates.