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Last Updated: 11/20/2017
 

 Article of Interest - IDEA Reauthorization

House Education and Workforce Committee to Unveil IDEA Reauthorization Bill

by Debbie Brown
For more articles like this visit http://www.bridges4kids.org

 
The House Education and Workforce Committee for the 108th Congress, http://edworkforce.house.gov/members/108th/mem-fc.htm, was expected to unveil its proposed bill for the reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on Wednesday, March 19, 2002. (Michigan members of the committee are Vernon Ehlers, Peter Hoekstra, Dale Kildee, and Fred Upton. )

 

IDEA was first enacted into federal law in 1982 to protect the provision of a free, appropriate, public education to students with special needs which may affect their ability to be educated without special education and related services.

 

There has been much discussion of the various recommendations to the reauthorization but the time of speculation has concluded. The IDEA reauthorization will include the following changes and additions:

 

1) NO MANDATORY FEDERAL FUNDING WILL BE PROVIDED TO STATES. Federal funding is optional and discretionary.

 

Point(s) to consider:

Since IDEA was first passed, federal funding has been an issue. Once promised at 40% funding to assist states, this will continue to be a state to state problem. Federal funding for IDEA would alleviate the increasing financial burden upon the States to comply with IDEA. States, in turn, assist our local school districts' special education programs. Though unspoken, the difficulties that parents encounter obtaining appropriate educations for their children are the result of budgetary constraints. Without mandatory federal funding, these issues will continue to persist.

 

Though the federal laws protect our children, implementation on a local level is difficult to achieve without adequate funding for our children's programs.

 

2) ELIMINATION OF SHORT-TERM OBJECTIVES FROM IEPS.

Point(s) to consider:

Currently, IEPs are required to have measurable annual goals and short-term objectives (benchmarks). Goals and objectives outline a student's educational needs and are crucial for the ability to measure the progress of our child. Progress reports currently are based upon the goals and objectives from the IEP and are scored against these outlined needs.

 

While annual goals give parents an overall picture for a particular instructional need, it is the short-term objectives, the stepping stones toward the goal, which allows parents to determine the child's actual progress.

 

For example, an annual goal may be:

Goal: John will improve receptive language skills.

The proposed elimination will generate a progress report that will not indicate anything beyond that goal. In other words, a progress report may read mastered, progressing, introduced, etc. at a stated criteria attainment level (80% accuracy) but will not state specifically how John improved his receptive language skills.

 

For example, currently IDEA requires the use of measurable annual goals and short-term objectives.

 

Goal: John will improve receptive language skills.
Objective: John will receptively identify objects as demonstrated by touching, pointing and giving object on command.

Objective: John will receptively identify pictures by pointing.

Objective: John will receptively identify body parts by pointing. Objective: John will demonstrate actions when requested.

Objective: John will demonstrate function of objects.


Currently, each objective is measured for progress reports. In the example above, there is a natural progression of skill-building and meaningful information is collected and shared. The student works from physical objects to representations to self-awareness to abstract receptive skills like actions and functions. The elimination of short-term objectives may results in the lack of knowledge of the child's actual progress in the instructional area.

 

3) IEPS WILL BE REVIEWED ONCE EVERY THREE YEARS.

Point(s) to consider:

While parents will be able to advocate for an annual IEP review and also retain the right to request additional IEP reviews, the annual review will no longer be automatic or mandatory. Each parent must individually advocate for additional IEP reviews above the pre- designated three year interval. It will be difficult to say how cooperative districts will be when annual reviews are at a higher standard than the law requires. Our children's educational needs are constantly changing based upon progress or newly found challenges. While the door remains open for additional reviews, it may become more confusing to newer parents entering the process to understand their rights to additional reviews. An annual review holds the districts at a higher standard of accountability.

 

4) STATES ARE REQUIRED TO OFFER VOLUNTARY BINDING ARBITRATION HEARINGS.

Point(s) to consider:


While existing procedural safeguards such as mediation, due process and complaint investigation remain available recourses, this fourth option will be offered.

 

Voluntary binding arbitration hearing is not in a court and is not presided by an administrative law judge. The hearing will be presided by a three person panel consisting of one party selected by the school, one selected by the parent, and one agreed upon by both.

 

Unlike mediation, where the mediator is an impartial third party who is there is facilitate negotiation and does not impose their opinions upon the matter to be adjudicated, this panel will make a final and binding decision. There is no appeal process. Once a decision is handed down, the decision cannot be reviewed by due process or any higher courts.

 

While this option may be a court time-saving measure, it does not allow for the natural legal process. Without the right to appeal to higher authority, it is unclear why parent or school would opt for this measure.

 

5) 15% OF PART B IDEA SPECIAL ED FUNDING TO BE USED BY PRE-REFERRED STUDENT (STUDENTS W/O IEPS AND/OR SECTION 504 PLANS)

Districts will be allowed to utilize funds earmarked for the provision of special education and related services for students who do not have an IEP or even a Section 504 plan. Educators have argued that this is preventive measure so that students who may not yet require an IEP or Section 504 plan can receive special education services to prevent them from officially entering special education, to have their needs met without letting them slip through the cracks.

 

Since IEPS and Section 504 plans do exist, these students should have full use of this system with its safeguards and accountability and therefore it is unnecessary utilize special education much needed funds for children with existing IEPs. As parents, we know first hand how difficult it is to obtain the services our children need but this problem will persist if conceivably only 85% of the earmarked funds will be utilized for students with IEPs.

 

Just a quick note about Section 504 plans. A section 504 plan is for student who has a disability that may require accommodations and modifications to the general education but does not require special instruction. Section 504 plans do not draw from IDEA funds. This would not change based on this measure. The basis of Section 504 is the student is entitled to access to an appropriate education regardless of disability and schools must make exceptions to assist the student learning.

 

Further, there is no procedure or safeguards for a student receiving services in this method. No guidelines to protect the rights of the student or the parent.

 

6) DUE PROCESS TIMELINES AND PROCEDURE CHANGES


Currently, due process decisions are to be handed down within 45 days from receipt of filing. Exceptions are granted by an administrative law judge so that parties can submit evidence or obtain witnesses. These exceptions to the timeline are at the discretion of the judge with ample representation by parties interest (either by an advocate, attorney, or self-representation). The judge listens to both parties and decides whether extensions will be granted.

 

The change to the due process procedure will have automatic built-in delays to the hearing. The district will now have 15 days to reconvene a final IEP meeting to clear up issues and another additional 15 days to resolve these problems.

 

Point(s) to consider:

It is unclear whether the 45 days to final decision will remain in effect. In other words, 15+15=30 days and therefore the final remaining 15 days the court will hear the case and render a final decision.

 

It seems more likely that the 45 day clock will begin ticking after the districts 30 days so due process will be delayed by a month.

 

In the meantime, the student remains in need. Parents could possibly be retaining and paying for professionals an additional 30 days during this process.

 

Further, while extensions are available in due process, the additional safeguard is the administrative law judge. The judge allows both parties to advocate their position for and against extension and it is the judge who decides whether extensions are granted. While this may be legal formality, the procedure is common to all legal proceedings. Special education legal issues should be no exception and should be treated with the same respect as other legal proceedings.

 

7) DISTRICTS ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PROVISION OF EDUCATION TO STUDENTS WHO ARE SUSPENDED OR EXPELLED.

 

Currently, IDEA has provisions for students who have a disability who may come under disciplinary action.

 

When a student is removed 10 days or more, or expelled, the district remains responsible for the provision of education in an interim education setting. Also, a manifestation determination review must be done to determine if the behavior was a manifestation of the disability. If not, the student is disciplined according to the guidelines set forth for typical students. However, if it was disability-related, the district must work towards conducting a functional behavior assessment and a subsequent behavior intervention plan. But all along this process, the district remains responsible for the education of the student in an interim setting (home program, etc). Also, parents have the additional procedural safeguard of expedited due process hearing to possibly stop a district from a disciplinary action (such as removing them from a school).

 

The proposed change regarding discipline is that when a child is suspended or expelled, the district is no longer responsible for education of the student.

 

There will be no manifestation determination, behavior assessment, behavior plans or even expedite due process because the student will simply no longer be the responsibility of the district.

 

It is unclear who is responsible for the student. It would appear that parents will then have to seek out alternative placement for their children.

Information on contacting House Education Committee members may be found at: http://congress.org or http://www.bridges4kids.org/ConLeg.html

Members include:
John A. Boehner, Ohio, Chairman
Thomas E. Petri, Wisconsin
(Vice Chairman)
George Miller, California
(Ranking Minority Member)
Cass Ballenger, North Carolina
Dale E. Kildee, Michigan
Peter Hoekstra, Michigan
Major R. Owens, New York
Howard "Buck" McKeon, California
Donald M. Payne, New Jersey
Michael N. Castle, Delaware
Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey
Sam Johnson, Texas
Lynn C. Woolsey, California
James C. Greenwood, Pennsylvania
Rubén Hinojosa, Texas
Charlie Norwood, Georgia
Carolyn McCarthy, New York
Fred Upton, Michigan
John F. Tierney, Massachusetts
Vernon J. Ehlers, Michigan
Ron Kind, Wisconsin
Jim DeMint, South Carolina
Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio
Johnny Isakson, Georgia
David Wu, Oregon
Judy Biggert, Illinois
Rush D. Holt, New Jersey
Todd Russell Platts, Pennsylvania
Susan Davis, California
Patrick J. Tiberi, Ohio
Betty McCollum, Minnesota
Ric Keller, Florida
Danny Davis, Illinois
Tom Osborne, Nebraska
Ed Case, Hawaii
Joe Wilson, South Carolina
Raúl M. Grijalva, Arizona
Thomas Cole, Oklahoma
Denise L. Majette, Georgia
Jon C. Porter, Nevada
Chris Van Hollen, Maryland
John Kline, Minnesota
Timothy J. Ryan, Ohio
John R.Carter, Texas
Marilyn N. Musgrave, Colorado
Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee
Phil Gingrey, Georgia
Max Burns, Georgia

The Chair of the Senate Committee responsible for IDEA reauthorization, Senator Gregg of Massachusetts (R-NH), can be reached at:
 
Senator Gregg welcomes your thoughts, comments, and suggestions on the issues that are important to you. New Hampshirites wishing to express their opinions regarding upcoming legislation may do so by calling, emailing or sending a letter to one of Senator Gregg's offices listed below. You can contact Senator Gregg online by completing a web form, or you can email him at mailbox@gregg.senate.gov
 
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This is a photo of the New Hampshire State Capitol BuildingConcord office
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