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President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education
First Meeting, Sets Schedule

FOR RELEASE: January 15, 2002
Contact: Kathleen Mynster, Jim Bradshaw

The President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education was sworn in today and set out its agenda for the next four months.

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige delivered welcoming remarks and swore in the 19-member commission.

"He is committed to the bold proposition that every child can learn," Paige told the commission. "This doesn't mean that, after you siphon off the children who have disabilities; or the children who were never properly taught how to read; or the children who never learned English; or the children who disrupted their classrooms, most of the rest of them can learn."

"It means that all of our kids, even the ones our system calls 'hard to teach' can learn. This means that even students with disabilities can learn to high standards."

Paige also called on the commission to discover what works to improve the performance of students with disabilities.

"Your task as a commission is to discover what works to improve the performance of students with disabilities receiving special education," he said. "Talk to other experts. Examine research. Study preventive reading programs, and tell us how Washington can help state and local communities provide excellent special education services."

President Bush created the commission in October to collect information and study issues related to federal, state and local special education programs with the goal of recommending policies for improving the educational performance of students with disabilities. The purpose of the meetings is to hear from experts and members of the public who will provide the commission with information and guidance.

The commission is charged with producing a final report to the president by this summer that contains findings and recommendations in the following nine areas:

a. Cost-effectiveness: The effectiveness and cost of special education and the appropriate role of the federal government in special education programming and funding, including an analysis of the factors that have contributed to the growth in costs of special education since the enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (a predecessor of IDEA);

b. Improving Results
: How federal resources can best be used to improve educational results for students with disabilities;

c. Research: A special education research agenda;

d. Early Intervention: The impact of providing appropriate early intervention in reading instruction on the referral and identification of children for special education;

e. Funding Formulae: The effect of special education funding on decisions to serve, place, or refer children for special education services and possible alternative funding formulae that might distribute funds to achieve better results and eliminate any current incentives that undermine the goals of ensuring high-quality education for children with disabilities;

f. Teacher Quality and Student Accountability
: How the federal government can help states and local education agencies provide a high-quality education to students with disabilities, including the recruitment and retention of qualified personnel and the inclusion of children with disabilities in performance and accountability systems;

g. Regulations and Red Tape
: The impact of federal and state statutory, regulatory and administrative requirements on the cost and effectiveness of special education services, and how these requirements support or hinder the educational achievement of students with disabilities;

h. What Models Work in the States: How differences in local education agency size, location, demographics and wealth, and in-state law and practice affect which children are referred to special education and the cost of special education; and

i. Federal v. Local Funding
: A review of the experiences of state and local governments in financing special education, and an analysis of whether changes to the federal "supplement not supplant" and maintenance of effort" requirements are appropriate.


Commission members approved the following meeting schedule:

Feb. 25-27, Houston, Texas
March 6, Denver, Colo.
March 13, Des Moines, Iowa
March 20, San Diego, Calif.
March 21, Los Angeles, Calif.
April 9-10, Miami, Fla.
April 16, New York City, N.Y.
April 18, Nashville, Tenn.
May 30-31, Washington, D.C.

Meeting times and locations will be available at a later date, and additional meetings may be added by the commission, if necessary.

The commission members are:

Terry Edward Branstad of Iowa, chairman; Adela Acosta, Maryland; Steve Bartlett, Texas; William Berdine, Kentucky; Paula Butterfield, Pennsylvania; Jay G. Chambers, California; W. Alan Coulter, Louisiana; Floyd Flake, New York; Thomas Albert Fleming, Michigan; Jack M. Fletcher, Texas; Douglas H. Gill, Washington; David W. Gordon, California; Nancy Grasmick, Maryland; Steve Hammerman, New York; Bryan Hassel, North Carolina; Douglas Carl Huntt, Ohio; Michael J. Rivas, Texas; Cheryl Rei Takemoto, Virginia; and Katie Wright, Illinois.

For more information, visit the commission's Web site at


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