U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has released her recommended waiver authority under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Secretary did not recommend that Congress pass any additional waiver authority concerning the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The announcement mirrors guidance provided by the Department in March. The press release states “The Secretary determined there is no reason that a student’s access to FAPE cannot continue online, through distance education or other alternative strategies.” The report did not directly address any of the issues NSBA offered the Secretary in our letter concerning the many challenges impacting schools during the pandemic around IDEA.
Although there are no recommended waivers on FAPE and LRE requirements under IDEA, there are some recommendations that Congress consider additional flexibilities on administrative requirements under the Perkins Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the IDEA. The NSBA legal and legislative advocacy teams are continuing to evaluate the recommendations and will offer additional information as we can provide it. We remain committed to working on strategies to get Congress to offer narrowly tailored and temporary flexibility and increased funding for IDEA to offset the many challenges of COVID-19. For your information, the link to the waiver report is provided below.