Approves Special Education Update
CNN News, November 19, 2004
For more articles like this
-- The House on Friday approved an update of special education
requirements and pledged less pressure on teachers and more
enforcement of high standards for the disabled.
The bill, approved 397-3, would be the first major revision to
the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in seven years.
The law promises a free and appropriate education in the least
restrictive environment to more than 6.7 million children with
The Senate was to approve the bill Friday, and President Bush
was expected to sign it. That would allow Congress to take
credit for a significant, bipartisan school bill before the new
year, when its membership will change and a heavy agenda of
education issues awaits.
"We set out with one fundamental goal in mind. That was to
improve the educational results for students with disabilities,
and I believe we have accomplished that goal with the bill that
we have before us today," said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio,
chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee.
Friday's action became a formality after congressional
negotiators reached terms earlier in the week, capping weeks of
private talks and nearly two years of debate in Congress.
In a key provision, the bill aims to boost discipline, giving
schools more freedom to remove disruptive children if their
behavior is not a result of their disability.
It also targets more accurate identification of which children
have disabilities, earlier intervention for struggling students,
and stronger enforcement of how states comply.
For teachers, there is the promise of less paperwork. New
educators will also get more flexibility in proving they are
"highly qualified" to stay in the classroom under new federal
standards -- but not as much flexibility as several education
groups say is needed.
The bill encourages mediation in disputes between parents and
schools and allows states and districts to recover attorneys'
fees if a parent's complaint is deemed frivolous.
On the money front, Congress will recommit to the promise it
made long ago: covering up to 40 percent of the additional cost
of educating children with special needs. It now pays less than
19 percent, and states and schools must make up a difference of
billions of dollars.
"For $10 billion we could fully fund IDEA and get up to that 40
percent cost share," said Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wisconsin. "It's just
a question of priorities." Kind said the administration may ask
for another $75 billion for Iraq next year and "with just a
fraction of that amount we could fully fund IDEA."
Under the new deal, Congress would reach its spending share by
2011, but that's based on yearly increases that are not
Getting the bill to the floor has been a labor. The House passed
its version 19 months ago, while the Senate approved its bill in
The move to reconcile the differences stalled for months.
Democrats sought assurances their concerns would be heard, but
Republicans said the minority party held up the bill so Bush
would not be given a pre-election victory.
In recent days, however, House and Senate education leaders have
praised each other for their commitment. After negotiators
reached terms Wednesday, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said, "In
many respects, this is one of the most important undertakings
and success stories of this Congress."
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to