Applauds U.S. Senate Passage of IDEA
News from CHADD Volume 4, Number 13, May 19, 2004
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Following months of deliberation and debate, last week the U.S.
Senate passed S.1248, the reauthorization of the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), by a 95-3 vote.
Long-time special education advocate Sen. Jeffords (I-VT) voted
against the bill because there is no provision for mandatory
funding. Traditional IDEA supporters Sen. Leahy (D-VT) and Sen.
Stabenow (D-MI) also voted against the final bill. IDEA is the
primary law that governs special education in public schools.
leadership of Chairman Gregg (R-NH) and ranking member Kennedy(D-MA)
of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions (HELP), the bill provides a bipartisan model that
serves children with disabilities and their families while
simultaneously reducing undue administrative hardship upon
educators and support staff. While the Senate bill does not meet
all of CHADD's objectives, it retains key provisions of the
current law that protect the rights of children with
disabilities and their families. Some disability organizations
oppose the Senate bill; however, CHADD and a majority of the
national disability organizations worked closely with the Senate
staff throughout the deliberation process to shape provisions
and the amendments in positive ways and to minimize adverse
impact upon provisions that CHADD supported. [For additional
background about CHADD's stand on IDEA and specific provisions,
see the News from CHADD archives. Specifically: March 3, 2003;
June 6, 2003; and July 17, 2003.] With the exception of two
amendments involving mandatory funding (Harkin-Hagel) and non-
mandatory funding (Gregg), all contentious issues were
eliminated before and during floor debate, and the remaining
four amendments were approved by voice vote.
significant provisions approved by the Senate either within the
bill or by an amendment are as follows:
EDUCATION AND PAPERWORK REDUCTION
is designed to relieve administrative burdens on educators while
preserving the rights of those children with disabilities in
states that are part of a pilot program. While the demonstration
authorized by the Senate (15 states) is larger than the one in
the House version (10 states), the Senate provisions specifying
the rights that must be protected is very clear. States that
agree to be part of the pilot project may not waive civil rights
protections and must protect a child's right to receive a "free
appropriate public education" or "FAPE." Most conflicts between
schools and parents revolve around what is "appropriate."
Changes instituted in the pilot program may not infringe upon
within the bill-crafted by Sens. Clinton (D-NY) and Sessions
(R-AL)-provides grants to support staff development and other
resources for Positive Behavioral Supports.
Research has shown that when schools use such methods
school-wide discipline improves. This provision is one that
CHADD and other organizations worked to have included in the
final Senate wording.
Sen. Clinton also made an amendment to add the U.S. Department
of Education to the National Child Study.
contains a requirement to study the extent to which parents are
pressured to use medication to treat their children. The study
should enable Congress to determine if the reported cases are
representative of a major problem or are isolated cases that,
while tragic, may not warrant federal action.
Attempts to cap
attorney fees were denied. By eliminating actions that are
"frivolous" or "groundless" or brought with "improper purpose"
(note: items in quotation marks are legal terms), both parent
and school rights will be better served. This is the same
standard as other civil rights laws, and the amount for the
prevailing attorney in a proper case is unchanged.
ON HOMELESS, WARD OF THE STATE AND CHILDREN OF MILITARY FAMILIES
AND OTHERS IN TRANSITION
by Sen. Murray (D-WA) will improve the delivery of services to
schools, and reduce complications for schools that receive new
students with supportive plans developed by other school
districts, including children with parents in the military.
AMENDMENT: MANDATORY FULL FUNDING
funding measure, the Harkin-Hagel Amendment, failed on
Wednesday, May 12, by a vote of 56 to 41, with 60 votes required
for passage. Fifty-six senators voted in favor of mandatory full
funding, including 10 Republicans. Republicans supporting
mandatory full funding were Chafee (R-RI), Coleman (R-MN),
Collins (R-ME), Hagel (R-NE) (one of the authors), McCain
(R-AZ), Murkowski (R-AK), Roberts (R-KS), Snowe (R-ME), Specter
(R-PA), and Warner (R-VA).
Now that both
the House (H.R. 1350) and the Senate (S. 1248) have passed
different versions of an IDEA reauthorization bill, a
House-Senate Conference Committee must be formed to resolve the
differences. In essence, the two bills will be examined, debated
and ultimately blended into a final bill upon which both the
House and Senate agree. However, with the presidential election
and several extended recesses just weeks and months away, there
are few "legislative days" left for Congress to take aggressive
steps. Within the next several weeks, CHADD will issue an
analysis comparing the House and Senate bills.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
senators and representatives with TWO important messages: 1.
IDEA must be reauthorized this year, and 2. The Senate version
of IDEA is a more balanced bill than the House bill in that it
addresses the concerns of educators and policy officials at all
levels while continuing to protect the rights and capabilities
of children. Your local voice makes the biggest difference.
Please use the CHADD Legislative Action Center (LAC) for tools
and direct links to your members of Congress. The LAC can be
accessed through the CHADD Web site by clicking on the picture
of the U.S. Capitol and then clicking on Legislative Action
Center. There, you will also find local contact information to
let your voice be heard when your elected officials are home
during the many breaks this summer.
reauthorization was to have been completed by September 2002.
Countless hours and effort have been spent, and it may not be
completed this year. Help CHADD. Please call, write and tell
your members of Congress how much IDEA benefits everyone. To
view the entire bill and all amendments, visit
http://thomas.loc.gov. Go to
either H.R. 1350 or S. 1248 and then scroll until you find the
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