Legislators approve higher ed individuals with disabilities bill as work on budget continues - AZEdNews
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Legislators approve higher ed individuals with disabilities bill as work on budget continues

House Education Chair Paul Boyer Describes His Amendment To House Bill 2031 During The Senate Committee Of The Whole On Monday, May 2, 2022. Photo Courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

Legislators approved an individuals with disabilities bill for students admitted to and attending state universities and community colleges this week. Meanwhile, Legislative leaders kept calendars light as Legislators continue to work on a budget, just weeks after 12 skinny budget bills failed in the House Appropriations Committee.

The skinny budget was essentially a continuation of this year’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year with adjustments for inflation and growth. The budget bill funding K-12 public education also included the 2% inflation increase in funding required by state law, which has no relation to the actual inflation Arizonans are experiencing now, said Dr. Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for Arizona Association of School Business Officials.

That continuation budget was voted down after Republicans Rep. Jake Hoffman and Rep. Michelle Udall joined Democratic House Appropriations Committee members to vote against it. In explaining their votes, Rep. Hoffman said the state government already spends too much and Rep. Udall said the skinny budget bills do not address several key issues.

Education advocates also urged Legislators to vote against the skinny budget and instead develop a new budget that uses some of the $5 billion surplus in tax revenues estimated by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee to increase education funding and other key needs by state agencies. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee reported that there is $2.8 billion in one-time funding Legislators would allocate this year and about $1.29 billion in ongoing funding for Legislators’ priorities.

What the individuals with disabilities in higher ed bill includes

This week, the House and Senate met to discuss several bills, but the only education bill on those agendas was House Bill 2031, sponsored by House Education Chair Michelle Udall, which would require universities under the jurisdiction of the Arizona Board of Regents and community colleges develop policies that would allow students to submit documentation to establish that they are an individual with a disability.

Arizona Capitol Television: Senate Floor Session Committee of the Whole – 5/2/22

During the Committee of the Whole on Monday, May 2 on the Senate Floor, HB 2031 as amended received a do pass recommendation.

Under House Bill 2031, students could provide a state university or community college with documentation that they had an individualized education program (IEP) in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including one that is not current.

In addition, HB 2031 universities and community college could also ask for additional documentation from students who previously had an IEP but then was evaluated and determined to be ineligible for services. That documentation could include a 504 Plan, information describing services or accommodations provided to the student, an evaluation from a relevant licensed professional finding the student has a disability, plan or record of a disability from another institution of higher education, a record of service for the student from a private school, local education agency, state agency or institute of higher learning, and documentation of a disability due to service in the uniformed services.

Also, universities or community colleges would be required to share the process by which it determined eligibility for accommodations for a person with a disability, as well as share the policies adopted to meet the requirements of HB 2031 with students, faculty and the public in accessible formats including at student orientation and on their websites.

The Udall House floor amendment to HB 2031 that was approved requires universities and community colleges to share policies regarding disability documentation with the public and also adds that those institutes of higher learning must continue the process to establish a reasonable accommodation for a student under federal law until an accommodation that meets that individual’s needs is found that does not place an undue burden on the university or community college.

The approved Boyer Senate floor amendment to HB 2031 specifies that the interactive process in which a community college or public university must engage in to establish a reasonable accommodation according to federal law includes requesting additional documentation if needed.

The approved Senate amendment to HB 2031 changes the individual covered to an enrolled or admitted student, removed the language “undue burden on the university or community college” and re-affirms that the bill does not affect the meaning of reasonable accommodations or record of impairment, or the rights or remedies provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Update on school transportation bill

In other business on Tuesday, May 3, 2022,  the Senate refused the House amendments to SB 1630 school buses; student transportation; vehicles (Kerr), sponsored by Sen. Sine Kerr, and sent the bill to conference committee, which means the bill may likely be amended. If it is, both the House and Senate will have to approve the amended bill.