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Public Policy and Advocacy

DR advocates on behalf of federal programs and funding for research on the development and education of children and youth with disabilities. This is a team effort, in which we partner with our colleagues at CEC, along with researchers in the education and behavioral sciences and our university government relations experts. Key to the success of our advocacy are DR members who – along with their partners in schools and other agencies - are the most effective advocates for federal research policy, programs, and funding. Communicating with governmental representatives about the concrete impact that research has in improving practices and outcomes for children and youth with disabilities is critical to effective advocacy.

The DR Government Relations and Research Advocacy Committee, advises the DR Board of Directors in this work.  To keep DR members informed on public policy matters, we rely on email and social media communications and also post news on the DR website.  

Research Matters

Research Matters is a DR initiative to develop and share stories about how research in special education and related fields is making a difference for exceptional children, people with disabilities, their educators and their families.  These one to two page stories are designed to be used in communicating with policymakers and other stakeholders about the problems that special education researchers are addressing - especially research that is funded with federal dollars - and about the outcomes of this work. These stories make a difference!

We encourage DR members to submit their own research 'stories' to DR so we can share them with other DR members and with stakeholders who want to know how research in special education matters and why federal funding is vital. See more about Research Matters, including examples of research stories DR members have developed and a template for submitting your own story to DR.


CEC Advocacy Resources

Visit the CEC website for an overview of the Council’s advocacy resources and tools. Of special interest to DR are the following:

  • Policy Insider. CEC provides regular policy updates about Congressional activity of importance to special educators and researchers in special education as well as about the administrative agencies that administer federal programs for individuals with disabilities. DR works with CEC to highlight issues of special interest to the research community and to get the word out to the broader CEC membership through the Policy Insider.  Policy Insider updates are delivered in CEC’s Special Education TODAY, a weekly email digest to members that covers a range of news and current topics in special education. Sign up to receive Special Education Today, and visit the Policy Insider for policy news.
  • Action Alerts.  When CEC identifies pending actions that may significantly impact on federal policy, programs, or funding, it will alert CEC members and ask them to share their perspectives and expertise in order to better inform debates over such actions.  CEC alerts members through the divisions and units, and sometimes directly to all members through email.  DR shares these alerts, asking our members – whose perspectives on particular issues may be vital - to participate in our advocacy initiatives.
  • Legislative Action Center.  On matters in front of the US House and Senate concerning children and youth with disabilities, CEC’s Legislative Action Center (LAC) is an excellent tool for CEC members to quickly communicate with members of Congress. When an important issue is identified, a letter expressing CEC’s concern or recommendation is drafted for the LAC. CEC members can use that letter as a starting point, personalize it to reflect their unique perspectives and situations, and then send it automatically as an email to members of their Congressional delegation. Visit the Legislative Action Center to see how easy it is to use when it’s time for you to add your voice.
  • CEC Special Education Legislative Summit. Held each July in Washington, D.C., the Special Education Legislative Summit is an opportunity for educators across the country to make a difference by advocating for change with members of Congress. A representative of the DR board participates in planning the agenda and preparing the materials for the summit that focus on special education research policy and funding matters. Participation in the summit activities is open to all DR members.  These photos illustrate DR members attending a recent summit who helped make a difference!


DR Partnerships in Advocacy

In addition to our work with CEC, DR is a member of the legislative advocacy group Friends of IES.  Led by the American Educational Research Association, Friends of IES engages in legislative action on behalf of funding for the Institute of Education Research, both for the National Center for Special Education Research and the National Center for Education Research.

The Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) is an organization of more than 100 scientific societies that advocates for federal funding for IES, NIH, NSF, organizations that fund research about young people, including youth with disabilities. They are among the Friends of IES and a great partner in the advocacy work conducted by DR.

Last Updated:  22 February, 2021

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