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 Home > IDEA 2003 News > House Republicans Propose Reforms to Improve Educational Results (March 19, 2003)

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Committee on Education and the Workforce
U. S. House of Representatives

Summary of Bill

News Release

Full Text of Proposed Bill (282 pages)

Summary: Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act

The Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act would improve education results for children with special needs by shifting the focus away from compliance with duplicative, burdensome, and confusing rules, and placing a renewed emphasis on ensuring that children with disabilities are learning. The following provides a more comprehensive summary of the provisions included in the bill:

Increasing Accountability and Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities

The current IDEA system places too much emphasis on compliance with complicated rules, and not enough emphasis on ensuring that academic results are being delivered for children with special needs. As a result of this misplaced emphasis, too many children in special education classes have been left behind academically.

This legislation will ensure that States align their accountability systems for students with disabilities to the NCLB accountability system; assure that the IEP specifically addresses academic achievement of students with disabilities; and give local school districts greater flexibility in reviewing the progress of a child by replacing benchmarks and short-term objectives with the regular reporting requirements of NCLB.

Reducing the paperwork burden

Good special education teachers are leaving the profession in frustration with the current IDEA system's overwhelming and unnecessary paperwork burden, contributing to what is becoming a chronic shortage of quality teachers in special education.

This legislation will incorporate elements of Rep. Ric Keller's (R-FL) paperwork reduction bill, including the 3-year Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and the use of teleconferencing; create a ten state pilot program that allows states to reduce the IEP paperwork burden on teachers in order to increase instructional time and resources and improve results for students with disabilities; and streamline and decrease the paperwork burden on States and local school districts.

Improving early intervention strategies

Currently, too many children with reading problems are being identified as disabled and placed in special education where they do not necessarily belong. This over-identification hinders the academic development of students who are misidentified, and also takes valuable resources away from students who truly are learning disabled.

Experts agree that strengthening the quality of reading instruction programs across the nation will significantly strengthen special education and address this problem directly. This legislation will give flexibility to local school districts to use up to 15% of their funds for pre-referral services for students before they are identified as needing special education.

Reducing overidentification/misidentification of nondisabled children, including minority youth

A disproportionate number of minority students are wrongly placed in special education rather than being provided positive behavioral interventions and supports and intensive educational interventions.

As Education Secretary Rod Paige has noted, studies show the proportion of minority students identified in some disability categories is dramatically greater than their share of the overall population. More specifically, African-American students are labeled as mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed far out of proportion to their share of the student population. For minority students, misclassification or inappropriate placement in special education programs can have significant adverse consequences, particularly when these students are being removed from regular education settings and denied access to the core curriculum.

This legislation will require local school districts with significant overidentification of minority students to operate pre-referral programs that work to reduce overidentification; eliminate the outdated "IQ-discrepancy" model that relies on a "wait to fail" approach for identification of "specific learning disabilities;" introduce a "response to intervention" model that identifies students with specific learning disabilities before the student is failing at grade level; and encourage greater use of programs that rely on positive behavioral interventions and supports.

Supporting general education and special education teachers

A continuing shortage of special education teachers, coupled with a shortage of regular education teachers who are adequately trained to work with students with disabilities, hinders the educational achievement of students with disabilities under the current IDEA system. Both current and prospective special education and general education teachers should have professional development to address the educational needs of students with disabilities.

This legislation will refocus State Professional Development Grants on professional development for school personnel working with students with disabilities; align IDEA with requirements of NCLB for "highly qualified" teachers so that all students with disabilities are taught by a highly qualified teacher in core content areas; and streamline Personnel Preparation programs and encourage training of both special education teachers and regular education teachers to work with students with disabilities.

Restoring trust and reducing litigation

Litigation under this Act has taken on more of a role of finding and punishing school districts for technical violations rather than being used to protect the substantive rights of children with disabilities. The type of litigation breeds an attitude of distrust between the parents and the school personnel rather than working cooperatively to find the best education placement and services for the child.

This legislation will: encourage the use of mediation as early as possible and create opportunities for voluntary binding arbitration; require that complaints be clear and specific when they are filed; and establish a statute of limitations of one year from the date of the violation to file a complaint.

Encouraging innovative approaches to parental involvement and parental choice

Parents should be active participants in their child's education experience. However, often under the current IDEA, parents of students with disabilities are not fully informed or are often given limited options of where or how their child can be educated.

This legislation will:
* enable parents and local school districts to agree to change the IEP without holding an IEP meeting;
* allow school districts to use IDEA funds to support supplemental educational services for students with disabilities in schools identified in need of improvement under NCLB; and
* reform parent training centers to focus on all children with disabilities and serve all parents of children with disabilities, especially low-income, minority, and limited English proficient parents.

Reforming special education finance and funding

The current funding streams under IDEA are complex without necessity. The funding streams under the Act should be simplified and a clear path created to reach the federal full spending goal of 40 percent.

This legislation will simplify funding streams for IDEA Part B Grants to States and establish a clear 7-year path to reach the 40 percent goal of APPE through the discretionary appropriations process.

Ensuring school safety

Schools should be safe for all students and teachers. All students should be treated the same when it comes to discipline issues to ensure safety for all at the school.

This legislation will require school districts to continue to provide educational services to students with disabilities while allowing school district personnel to have one uniform discipline policy for all children.

Download Full Text of Proposed Bill

More info about Reauthorization of IDEA

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House Republicans Propose Reforms to Improve Educational Results for Children with Disabilities

Special Education Bill Would Align IDEA with No Child Left Behind Act, Address Concerns of Teachers, Parents, Students

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero or Dave Schnittger
(202) 225-4527

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Led by Education Reform Subcommittee Chairman Mike Castle (R-DE), Republican members of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce today formally announced plans to introduce legislation that would renew and reform the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and make improvements to a system that many parents and teachers say is overly focused on compliance with complex bureaucratic rules, and not focused enough on ensuring children with special needs are getting the education results they need.

The Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act calls for reforms to strengthen accountability and results for students, reduce the IDEA paperwork burden for teachers, provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve early intervention strategies, reduce the number of children who are wrongly placed in special education classes, reduce litigation and restore trust between parents and school districts, and align IDEA with the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act signed by President Bush in January 2002. NCLB requires federally-funded schools to be accountable for providing a quality education to all students, including students with special needs.

"Despite IDEA's many success stories, there is room for improvement in serving children with disabilities. These children are still among those at greatest risk of being left behind," said Castle. "Now more than ever, we must make sure that children with disabilities are given access to an education that maximizes their unique abilities and provides them with tools for later successful, productive lives. We must continue to be vigilant in our efforts towards improving the quality of education of all children, including children with disabilities."

Under the leadership of Chairman Castle and full committee chairman John Boehner (R-OH), the Education & the Workforce committee in 2002 conducted an exhaustive series of hearings on IDEA reauthorization and also launched a first-of-its-kind web-based project -- dubbed "Great IDEAS" -- soliciting input from stakeholders from all across the nation on the reforms necessary to improve results for children with disabilities. The more than 1700 responses, collected from parents, teachers and school administrators, emphasized the need for reform to refocus the law on improving results, and not on compliance with burdensome and complex regulations. By seeking input from those directly involved with special education, committee members were able to craft legislation addressing the concerns of the parents of children with special needs, and the teachers who work to educate those children.

Boehner pledged that the committee would move quickly with efforts to reauthorize the IDEA law, which officially expired in 2002, and noted that federal spending for IDEA has increased by 50 percent since President George W. Bush took office, even amid the twin challenges of war and economic uncertainty.

At the unprecedented level of funding proposed by President Bush for FY 2004, the federal government will be paying approximately 19 percent of the overall cost of educating children with special needs -- a share far greater than at any other time in history, and more than twice what it was during the last time Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Since the GOP took control of the House in 1995, federal funding for special education has increased by 282 percent, compared to only 62 percent during the previous eight years under Democrat control. The increased spending means it is now more essential than ever that Congress take steps to strengthen the IDEA system, Boehner said.

"Those who believe money alone can be the magic cure for the problems in our special education system are wrong," said Boehner. "Under President Bush, the federal government is spending far more money than at any other time in our nation's history for the IDEA system, and even more money is on the way for next year. But increasing spending alone is not enough. We have a responsibility to parents, teachers and children to ensure that these resources are funding a system that produces the best possible results. I commend Chairman Castle for crafting legislation that will achieve this vitally important goal."

House Republicans have also crafted a number of "companion bills" to strengthen special education results for students in conjunction with the Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act.

Rep. Jim DeMint (R-SC) will introduce an IDEA school choice bill on Thursday, March 20, 2003 aimed at promoting greater education choice for parents with children who have special needs. And Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) has introduced legislation to address the growing shortage of special education teachers by dramatically expanding federal student loan forgiveness for Americans who teach math, science, or special education in disadvantaged schools. The Wilson bill was originally proposed by President and Mrs. Bush, and is included in the President's FY2004 budget proposal.

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