The Education Department said Friday it is withdrawing nearly 600 policy guidance documents it says are outdated, including 72 in special education previously announced and others in offices dealing with K-12 and higher education.
The move is part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to reduce existing or planned regulations, many of them from the Obama administration. In education, Secretary Betsy DeVos has walked back policies and rules in higher education implemented by President Barack Obama to protect student borrowers trying to pay for college. She also withdrew guidance directing schools to allow transgender children to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. And she gave schools leeway in following earlier guidance on how to investigate sexual assaults on campus, saying that the rights of the accused had been trampled by the Obama-era rule.
The department recently said that it was rolling back 72 special education policy guidance documents but that the action would not affect services received by students with disabilities. Advocates for those students said they were alarmed at the move, although Stanford University Professor William S. Koski, director of the school’s Youth and Education Law Project, told Washington Post reporter Moriah Balingit it did not appear students would be affected.
In a related development, Politico reported that the department is now considering delaying for two years a rule intended to take effect in the next school year aimed at ensuring that minority students are not improperly identified for special education and that minority students in special education are not disciplined more than necessary.
That news sparked a strong reaction from Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington state, the leading Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, who said in a statement:
“There can be no further question: Secretary DeVos is dead set on rolling back all the progress we’ve made for our children of color and students with disabilities. If Secretary DeVos indeed moves forward with this action, she will be pushing IDEA’s [Individuals With Disabilities Education Act’s] promise of educational equity further out of reach, worsening the school to prison pipeline, and so much more — with students of all ages and backgrounds paying the price.”
“Now, that may very well be Secretary DeVos’s intention, but let me be as clear as I can be, it’s certainly not what parents or teachers want, it’s not what independent analysis has recommended, or what our students deserve. I will continue to do everything in my power to push back against this and every action by Secretary DeVos and the entire Trump administration to hurt out students.”
The department said in its Friday release that along with the 72 documents in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 97 guidance documents from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education are being withdrawn. They include some relating to fiscal 2000 appropriations and to grant programs that no longer exist.
Another 398 guidance documents are being withdrawn from the Office of Postsecondary Education, including some that date to 1994 and cover flooding in several states that occurred in 1997.
A department release said the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education; the Office of Innovation and Improvement; and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer also are withdrawing “out-of-date guidance documents.” The department’s task force on regulatory reform, created April 25, made the recommendations after reviewing hundreds of subregulatory documents, it said.
Education advocates probably will scrutinize the list to see if and how schools and students could be affected by the withdrawal of some of the documents. Here’s the full report: