In these most trying times, I want to start by sending positive thoughts to you, your families, your friends, and the communities in which you serve. I hope that you are taking time to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally.

 

On Friday, Congress ratified and the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This stimulus bill addressed many areas, but most importantly to our community, the CARES Act requires Secretary of Education DeVos to write a report with information about the flexibility that might be necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, including any waivers from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

 

CEC and its members have always been fierce and dedicated supporters of IDEA, its implementation of the regulations, and individuals with disabilities. It was, therefore, a non-starter to consider that any part of IDEA would be “waived.” We have, however, found a few areas where we feel that some flexibilities can be considered. Today, we sent these recommended flexibilities to Laurie VanderPloeg, Director of the Office of Special Education Programs, and Mark Schultz, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. These offices and leaders have been staunch supporters of IDEA, and we hope that they will take our considerations and continue to involve CEC in the process of making recommendations to the Secretary.

 

To be clear, we expect that these flexibilities should only be granted during the COVID 19 pandemic and that state and local education agencies, parents, and families should continue to work together in the interests of children with disabilities. And we believe, as long as our community continues to provide a free appropriate public education, we can build these temporary flexibilities into our system without altering IDEA and still allow those on the frontline of special education to focus on delivering services to students with exceptionalities.

 

The turnaround for CEC and its partner organizations to provide input into this CARES response was just a matter of days. With that in mind, I’d like to thank those who worked closely in creating our response: CEC officers, Board members, staff, policy advisers, partner organizations, and CEC’s Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) division. Thanks to their diligent work, we were able to develop what we believe are a set of recommendations that address our community as a whole. Each of you are facing a different set of challenges with a different set of resources, and so I believe our response has addressed as many concerns as we can at this time.

 

In the coming days, we will move our focus to leading the community discussion with our partner organizations, divisions and units, around the next stimulus bill, which we hope will address IDEA-specific funding. In our recent Legislative Action Center alert, we have asked for $12.5 billion to be provided in the next stimulus. Thanks to your help, we have already sent over 2,800 letters to Congress. Please continue to share this alert far and wide.

 

I am proud to be a part of the CEC community right now. To see the positive resources you are sharing online, in our CECommunity All-Member Forum, and on social media shows the passion and creativity of our community. CEC continues to add resources to our Teaching Remotely webpage and continues to welcome our 17,000+ new members who have reached out and are looking for support. We are in this together.

 

Best,

 

Jennifer Lesh,

2020 CEC President