The Trump administration wants to delay implementation of an Obama-era regulation designed to ensure that kids from certain backgrounds aren’t unnecessarily placed in special education.

In a Federal Register notice, the U.S. Department of Education is seeking comment on a plan to delay enforcement of what’s known as the “significant disproportionality” rule for two years.

At issue is a rule finalized in the closing weeks of the Obama administration aimed at preventing overrepresentation of minorities in special education.

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Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, states must identify school districts with high rates of students from particular racial or ethnic groups that are placed in restrictive settings or are subject to discipline.

However, the Obama administration contended that with states using different measures to assess what’s known as “significant disproportionality,” few districts were ever identified. The rule, which is set to take effect July 1, 2018, was supposed to address this oversight by establishing a uniform, national standard.

News first surfaced in October that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was considering delaying or possibly scrapping the rule altogether.

“What I can tell you, is through the regulatory review process, we’ve heard from states, (school districts) and others on a wide range of issues, including the significant disproportionality rule. Because of the concerns raised, the department is looking closely at this rule,” Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for the agency told Disability Scoop at the time.

The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment now that the Federal Register notice has been issued.

The move has Democratic lawmakers alarmed.

“I am deeply disappointed by the department’s efforts to propose a delay of the rule that addresses widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities,” said U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who cited a 2013 Government Accountability Office report urging a standard approach to defining “significant disproportionality” across states.

Likewise, disability advocates are warning against any delay.

“We know there is a problem that needs to be fixed — delaying implementation will only hurt children who are already in school and send a message to them that they are not (as) important as other children are,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network.

However, school administrators are supporting the Education Department’s plan. Daniel Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, said the regulations would “impose significant costs and administrative burdens on half of the school districts throughout the country.”

“We share advocates’ concern with over-identification of some students in special education and disproportionate discipline rates for some students in special education,” Domenech said. “However, we firmly disagree that the specific regulation issued by the department was within the agency’s scope and voiced deep concerns with the process, the initially proposed and final regulations.”

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