Federal Judge: Special Education Rule Shouldn’t Be Held Up

A federal judge rejected arguments from the US Department of Education and ordered that an Obama-era Special Education law be re-enabled.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled last week that the US Department of Education acted illegally, in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when effecting a delay of new rules regarding disparities in special education services.

From the Education Dive website:

The rule was drafted under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), which requires states to implement a “more consistent, standardized evaluation process” in evaluating whether there is “significant disproportionality” in the way school districts identify and discipline minority children with special needs.

From coverage in Education Week, more background on the contested rule:

The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act requires states to monitor how districts identify minority students for special education, discipline them, or place them in restrictive settings. Districts found to have “significant disproportionality” in one or more of these areas must set aside 15 percent of their federal special education funding to spend on remedies.

The law said that states are in charge of determining how significant a problem must be before it merits the set-aside. And, just a fraction of the nation’s school districts have ever been identified as having problems severe enough to require a federal set-aside.

The Obama administration aimed to change that. Implemented in the last weeks of Obama’s second term, it would have created a more consistent, standardized evaluation process. As a result, more school districts around the country were expected to have to use part of their federal funds on remedying “significant disproportionality.”

Read Judge Chutkan’s ruling online.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties