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Last Updated: 02/01/2018

 Article of Interest - IDEA Reauthorization

Whose IDEA is it Anyway?

from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), April 12, 2003

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The House Committee on Education and the Workforce voted on Thursday, April 10, to send H.R. 1350, "Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act" to the House floor. In a press release posted on its website on Friday, April 11, 2003, the committee pronounced that the bill was "hailed by school administrators as 'the best special education policy revisions we've seen in decades'."


According to advocates, the bill weakens IDEA in sweeping ways including the following:


Representative Ed Case (D-HI) introduced an amendment on attorneys fees which passed with a 27-21 majority. All other Democrats voted to restore the current provisions. The amendment gives the governors of each state the authority to determine rates for awarding fees to attorneys who represent children with disabilities in special education cases. Advocates believe the amendment will make it harder for disadvantaged families to find representation for their children and argue that it assigns rates for attorney fees unlike those in any other area of civil rights law.

Under current civil rights fee provisions, it is the court that sets attorney fee rates based upon lawyer experience, prevailing rates in the community in which the lawyer works, and the difficulty of the case before it. Although Rep. Case argues that his amendment is an alternative to strict caps on attorneys fees, his proposal allows states to set caps, even where the state is the defendant.

Advocates are also concerned that the provision will further deter attorneys from taking cases on behalf of parents. Parents who cannot pay out of their own pockets are already having a difficult time finding attorneys willing to take cases on a contingency basis because of a recent Supreme Court case that denies fees in cases that settle.


The House bill allows any child with a disability to be sent to an alternative placement indefinitely, whether or not the "offending" behavior was caused by the disability. A simple amendment to require a determination about whether the behavior was caused by the disability was defeated in committee.

Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) introduced an unsuccessful amendment to mandate mediation. Advocated expressed concern that the amendment was rejected by the Chair in favor of a far stricter provision already contained in the House bill requiring parents to attend an IEP meeting to "explain" their complaint to the school district, amounting to what advocates call "mandatory mediation without a mediator".  The House provision also precludes attorney fees for these mandatory sessions.

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