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 Article of Interest - IDEA Reauthorization

A Summary of H.R. 1350 - IDEA Reauthorization as Passed by the U.S. House by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), Senior Democratic Member, House Education and Workforce Committee
IDEA, May 6, 2003, Congressman George Miller (D-CA), Senior Democratic Member, House Education and Workforce Committee

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H.R. 1350: Eviscerates Parents' Civil Rights Breaks Promise to Provide Desperately Needed Funding; Encourages Expulsion of Vulnerable Children

On Wednesday, April 30th the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1350, the Republican IDEA Reauthorization bill, by a vote of 251 to 171.

The bill passed largely along party lines. 96% of Republicans voted for the bill; 87% of Democrats voted against it.

H.R. 1350 was introduced on March 19th. No hearings were held on this bill (a general hearing on IDEA - the only IDEA hearing of the 108th Congress - was held on March 13th, 6 days before the bill's introduction. We joined with parents and advocates in requesting subsequent hearings on the bill but were denied the opportunity by Chairman Boehner).

The bill was the rushed through the legislative process. The Education Subcommittee passed ("marked-up") the bill on April 2nd, and the Full Education Committee passed the bill a week later.

Virtually none of the recommendations made by parents of and advocates for children disabilities were included in the bill either in Committee mark-up or on the floor.

HR 1350 Policies: First, Do Harm

The bill as passed by the House still contains the very harmful policy provisions that were discussed in previous issues of this newsletter:

Places a Gag order on Parents - Parents would be barred from raising new issues in defending the rights of their children at due process hearings - even if new evidence has surfaced.

Places a Straight Jacket on Hearing Officers - Under the bill, hearing officers (objective individuals who resolve disputes between parents and school districts) would be barred from judging whether school districts violate IDEA's procedural protections for children with disabilities.

Institutes a One-year Statute of Limitations - Parents would be denied the ability to raise problems with their child's educational services after one year.

Allows States to Waive Longstanding Protections for Children and Parents - Under the bill, 10 States could operate paperwork reduction pilots. Criteria for these pilots are undefined and could allow schools to not provide parents with substantive IDEA documents, such as individualized education programs (IEPs) and procedural safeguard notices.

Caps on Attorneys' Fees Reimbursement - The Republican bill would require Governors to set the rate of attorneys' fees reimbursement when a parent wins a due process hearing against a school agency. This cap on attorneys' fees, which affects only the parents, not the school district, will prevent low and moderate income parents from acquiring legal representation to protect the legal rights of their disabled children.

Broken Promises: No Additional IDEA Funding
A Democratic amendment to ensure that the funds promised for special education are actually delivered was disallowed by the House Republican leadership.

H.R. 1350 doesn't provide a single extra dime of funding for IDEA. Claims that this bill puts us on the path to full funding are incorrect.

Despite many promises made in the last Congress about meeting our 28-year-old responsibility to fully fund the special education program, this bill fails to provide the necessary funding, meaning additional strains on overburdened states and local education budgets. In fact, H.R. 1350 actually caps the amount of funding which Congress can provide for IDEA.

Little Changed During Floor Consideration
During floor consideration of HR 1350, no significant changes were made.
Two voucher amendments were defeated, as was the Tancredo amendment that would redefine the term specific learning disability in a manner, which in effect would jeopardize identification of children with disabilities.

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