The start of a new year always brings with it the opportunity for reflection and rededication. That was particularly true this year as we prepared for a new President and Administration as well as a new Congress. Indeed, January has been an extraordinary month for our issues. In the months prior, NCLD worked with our allies, experts and our fantastic team to prepare for the opportunities and challenges ahead. Our constant focus is to maintain and expand the rights of individuals with learning and attention issues. With that in mind, I am proud to share this brief update with you.
- We released NCLD’s Policy Priorities for the Trump Administration and 115th Congress. Our priorities include recommendations to expand early screening programs, provide strong oversight of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), pass the bipartisan RISE Act and maintain and enhance legal protections.
- NCLD’s priorities served as the basis for our advocacy regarding the nominations of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.
- The nomination of Betsy DeVos raises serious questions for us due to her apparent lack of knowledge about how special education laws works. We urged the Senate to resolve these concerns before voting on her nomination.
After the hearing, new information came to light that Ms. DeVos will retain an ownership interest in a company that works on ADHD identification and treatment. This raises significant new concerns about her ability to be an objective leader when it comes to policies affecting children with ADHD. We are working with experts in the field to understand the implications of this potential conflict of interest and, from there, we will determine appropriate next steps.
- Regarding the nomination of Senator Sessions, we raised serious concerns about his ability to appropriately enforce civil rights laws in light of troubling past comments about children with disabilities. Unfortunately, when asked directly about these comments, Sen. Sessions’ response did not alleviate our concerns. It’s clear we will have to be vigilant advocates moving forward.
- Other news out of Washington brings reasons to be more optimistic. On January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, a case that examined how much benefit an IEP must provide a student with disability. NCLD joined several other organizations in filing an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court decision to allow a lower, de minimis standard. We are cautiously optimistic that the Court will agree. Our team attended the hearing and we were encouraged by the questions and comments from the justices. We also interviewed the attorney for the family, along with other experts for a short video on Understood. We should have a ruling by June and, either way, it will be a significant moment for the field.
And to think, all of this has happened before the end of January! As I have settled into my new role at NCLD, I have been struck by the incredible capacity of this organization to simultaneously serve parents of children with learning and attention issues through innovative platforms like Understood and provide expert counsel and leadership to policymakers in Washington. The year ahead promises to be a busy one and NCLD is gearing up to maximize our impact on all fronts.
Let me assure you that NCLD will remain vigilant in our work to not only defend past progress but also secure appropriate, additional protections for people with learning disabilities. Together with partners like you, I am confident that we can effectively advocate for the 1 in 5 children and adults living with learning and attention issues and ensure that their voice is represented at the highest levels of government.
President & CEO