Education in Election 2012: Serving Students with Disabilities

This post is part of this week’s “Education in Election 2012” series, exploring the differences between the parties and presidential candidates on education policy.

Today, we’ll take a quick look at what the political parties and presidential candidates have done and what they plan on doing to better serve students with physical, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

The President has a “People with Disabilities for Obama” page on his campaign website that touts his administration’s accomplishments. Although Governor Romney has several group-specific pages, Governor Romney has none for individuals with disabilities. The only information I could find on the Governor’s website is a single line stating he believes that students with disabilities should be allowed to take their IDEA and TItle I funds to whichever school they choose, an extension of his and many Republicans’ belief in the value school voucher programs.

Here’s where the candidates and parties stand:

President Barack Obama:

President Obama is committed to making sure our country values the contributions of every American—including the approximately 54 million people in this country living with disabilities. The President believes America prospers when we’re all in it together; when hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded; and when everyone from Wall Street to Main Street does their fair share and plays by the same rules

While we’ve come farther than ever when it comes to giving all people with disabilities a fair shot and a chance to succeed, the President knows how much more work we still have left and is committed to building on the progress we’ve made. Download this fact sheet to learn more.

1. Improving Access to Healthcare and Education

  • Putting health care within reach: President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act to stop insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions or disabilities. The Affordable Care Act also expands Medicaid coverage for people with disabilities.
  • Strengthening schools: President Obama understands that education is an economic imperative that should be within reach of every child. That’s why he increased funding for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state grants and other critical IDEA programs to ensure that young adults with disabilities receive the education and training that they need to compete for jobs and lead their communities. The President will work to ensure that students with disabilities are included in all aspects of our nation’s education law, including appropriately measuring achievement gaps and working to close them so every child is on track to succeed. The administration also strengthened the early intervention program under Part C of the IDEA to help improve services and outcomes for America’s infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.

2. Promoting Innovation

  • Building a new era of technology: In July of 2010, the President signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Access Act, improving internet accessibility for the deaf and visually impaired communities.

3. Creating a Safer Country

  • President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding the law to include protections against violence motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

4. Supporting Fair Employment

  • Hiring veterans: The President signed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, doubling tax breaks for businesses that hire unemployed veterans with disabilities related to their service.
  • Reaching out to workers: The President signed an executive order requiring Executive Branch departments and agencies to improve their efforts to employ workers with disabilities.
  • Including all Americans: Under President Obama, the Department of Labor proposed new standards that would require require companies with federal contracts to set a goal of creating a workforce that includes at least 7 % people with disabilities.

Governor Mitt Romney:

K-12: Promoting Choice And Innovation
Giving students trapped in bad schools a genuine alternative requires four things: (1) such alternatives must exist, (2) parents must receive clear information about the performance of their current school and of the alternatives, (3) students must be allowed to move to a new school, and (4) students must bring funding with them so that new schools can afford to serve them.  Mitt’s reforms achieve each of these objectives:

  • Allow Low Income And Special Needs Students To Choose Which School To Attend By Making Title I and IDEA Funds Portable

GOP Platform:

  • We renew our commitment to the inclusion of Americans with disabilities in all aspects of our national life. In keeping with that commitment, we oppose the non-consensual withholding of care or treatment from people with disabilities…. Because government should set a positive standard in hiring and contracting for the services of persons with disabilities, we need to update the statutory authority for the Ability One program, a major avenue by which those productive members of our society can offer high quality services.
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has opened up unprecedented opportunities for many students, and we reaffirm our support for its goal of minimizing the separation of children with disabilities from their peers. We urge preventive efforts in early childhood, especially assistance in gaining pre-reading skills, to help many students move beyond the need for IDEA’s protections. We endorse the program of Employment First, developed by major disability rights groups, to replace dependency with jobs in the mainstream of the American workforce.

Democratic Party Platform:

  • No one should face discrimination based on disability status. President Obama and the Democratic Party will continue to lead efforts to facilitate the access of Americans with disabilities to the middle class, employment opportunities, and the ability to lead full, productive, and satisfying lives. The administration and the Democratic Party are committed to assisting the approximately 50 million people in this country living with disabilities, assuring their full integration into society.
  • This administration has committed to hiring 100,000 Americans with disabilities within the federal government by 2015, and has proposed new rules to create employment opportunities with federal contractors.
  • We are committed to expanding access to employment for people with disabilities and removing barriers to work.
  • The Affordable Care Act is opening access to health insurance to Americans with disabilities who were previously excluded because of pre- existing conditions, expanding access to Medicaid, and helping Medicaid to support home- and community-based services to keep people in their communities.
  • Democrats are committed to ensuring that Americans with disabilities can exercise their right to vote and have access to the polls….Democrats know that voter identification laws can disproportionately burden young voters, people of color, low-income families, people with disabilities, and the elderly, and we refuse to allow the use of political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens.
  • We will continue to oppose all efforts to weaken the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, and we will vigorously enforce laws that prevent discrimination.
  • And the President and the Democratic Party will fiercely oppose the harsh cuts in Medicaid that would inevitably lead to no or significantly less health care for millions of Americans with disabilities, workers with disabilities, and families raising children with autism, Down Syndrome, and other serious disabilities.
  • But there is still more work to do. Democrats believe that we must raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation. We will continue to fight for equal pay for equal work, a strong labor movement, and access to a world-class education for every child. We will help lift people with disabilities out of poverty.
  • Democrats adamantly oppose any efforts to privatize or voucherize Medicare…Nearly 50 million older Americans and Americans with disabilities rely on Medicare each year, and the new health care law makes Medicare stronger by adding new benefits, fighting fraud, and improving care for patients. And, over 10 years, the law will save the average Medicare beneficiary $4,200….In short, Democrats believe that Social Security and Medicare must be kept strong for seniors, people with disabilities, and future generations. Our opponents have shown a shocking willingness to gut these programs to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest, and we fundamentally reject that approach.

Please check back tomorrow when we’ll compare the candidates’ and parties’ positions on decreasing college costs and increasing accessibility to higher education.

  • Thursday: Higher Education
  • Friday: K-12 Education
Alex Hunt

About Alex Hunt

Alex Hunt is the Yale & Irene Rosenberg Graduate Fellow at the Center for Children, Law & Policy. Alex graduated from the University of Texas in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in government. Before entering law school, he taught middle school math at YES Prep Southwest in Houston with Teach For America. In 2010, he received New Leaders' EPIC Spotlight Teacher Award, a national award for teachers with outstanding student growth. Alex graduated cum laude from the University of Houston Law Center in May 2013. During law school, Alex was Casenotes & Comments Editor for the Houston Journal of International Law, interned for both state and federal judges, and served as Vice President of the Health Law Organization (HLO). In addition, Alex has received the Irving J. Weiner Memorial Scholarship Award (for a year of outstanding work in the UH Law Center Legal Clinic), the Napoleon Beazley Defender Award (for outstanding work on behalf of children), the Ann Dinsmore Forman Memorial Child Advocacy Award, the Mont P. Hoyt Memorial Writing Award for an Outstanding Comment on a Topic in International Law, and he was a finalist for Texas Access to Justice's Law Student Pro Bono Award.

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