The Education Department told states this week that it was reversing course and enforcing an Obama-era regulation designed to ensure children of color are not disproportionately punished or sent to special-education classrooms.
In March, a federal court ruled that the Trump administration must implement the regulation immediately. Three weeks later, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that her agency was still “reviewing the court’s decision and discussing our options.”
Published in the final days of the Obama administration, the rules were supposed to have taken effect last year. DeVos moved last summer to delay them for two years. The court decision, issued March 7, was a rebuke of her action.
Under the regulation, states face tighter rules about how they tabulate data about the demographics and treatment of children in special education to ensure there are not racial disparities. Those calculations may tip more states over a threshold that requires them to create a plan to ensure students of color are not being disproportionately targeted.
In a notice published Monday, the department said it expects states to calculate — or if needed, recalculate — their data using the Obama methodology.
The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, an advocacy group for children with disabilities. The ruling found that the department violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to provide a “reasoned explanation” for its delay and by failing to consider the costs of the postponement. It lifted the two-year delay DeVos imposed.
The Trump administration complained that the rule could lead to quotas, but the court said that reasoning was flawed.
In a statement, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates said it was pleased the department had “finally confirmed what was clear” from the court’s order — that states that did not follow the Obama rules for this school year must recalculate their data.
“With this change, schools and students eligible for early intervening services will no longer have to wait for needed help,” the group said. “Given what’s at stake, the department should do all they can to assist states to come into compliance with the law.”