The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
March 20, 2003

Issue -
ISSN: 1538-3202

In this Issue

Improve Educational Results for Children Act

Private School Vouchers & Student Loan Forgiveness

Reauthorizing IDEA - What Next?

Learn More About IDEA

Your Role: Speak Up for the Kids

Important Message From Wrightslaw

Subscription & Contact Info

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In this special issue about IDEA reauthorization, you learn about new bills that propose significant changes to the special education law; how you can be heard; and important changes in The Special Ed Advocate newsletter.

If you are the parent of a child with a disability, you represent your child's interests. You need to stay informed about changes to the law that may affect your child. If you are a teacher or special education service provider, the reauthorized law is likely to affect you and your job.

1. IDEA: Improving Educational Results for Children with Disabilities Act

On March 19, 2003, the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the U. S. House of Representatives published a proposed bill to reauthorize IDEA.

The "Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act" proposes to improve educational results for children with disabilities by making significant changes to the IDEA.

Proposed changes include:

  • Increase accountability and improved results; align IDEA with NCLB
  • Reduce paperwork burden
  • Allow 3 year IEPs if parent and district agree
  • Eliminate benchmarks and short term objectives from IEPs
  • Allow IEP to be amended without convening entire IEP team if parent and district agree
  • Improve early intervention
  • Reduce overidentification / misidentification of nondisabled children, including minority youth
  • Eliminate "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 child fails
  • Encourage use of positive behavioral interventions and supports
  • Increase professional development and training of general ed & special Ed teachers
  • Restore trust and reduce litigation (mediation allowed at any time; binding arbitration)
  • Pre-referral interventions to children not yet IDEA eligible to address reading and behavior.
  • Allow districts to have one discipline policy for all children

The bill is 282 pages long. We suggest that you "right click" the link and save the file to your hard drive.

Thanks to Jamie Ruppman, Director of Governmental Relations, TASH, who sent a link to this proposed bill.

2. Private School Vouchers & Student Loan Forgiveness

According to the Washington Post, another Representative will propose a voucher program that will allow special education students to attend private schools at public expense.

Another measure will expand student loan forgiveness for college graduates who become special education, math or science teachers.

Read "House GOP Seeks to Revise Law Governing Special Education" by Michael Fletcher, Washington Post:

Our thanks to Candace Cortiella, Director of The Advocacy Institute for the link to this article about vouchers and student loans.

3. Reauthorizing IDEA - What Next?

These proposed bills were introduced by Republican members of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bills are not bipartisan bills.

House Democrats will comment on the proposed bills and suggest changes. (The Senate has a similar process) The bills will be amended. After the bills are amended and consolidated, the House of Representatives will vote on it.

The Senate will go through a similar process - hold hearings, propose a bill, amend the bill, and vote by the full Senate.

After the House and Senate pass their versions of the IDEA reauthorization bill, both bills will go to a House-Senate conference committee. This committee will try to resolve the differences between the two bills.

As you see, this process can be long and complicated. We thought it may be helpful to look at the previous IDEA reauthorization to see how the process unfolded.

IDEA was last reauthorized in 1997. The bill came up in earlier years but was not passed by Congress because there were significant differences between the House and Senate versions that could not be resolved. Pete testified at the "off the record" hearings that were held to remove these obstacles.

Bottom line: We do not know if IDEA will be reauthorized this year. You need to pay attention. You may want to contact your members of Congress as the reauthorization process continues.

4. Learn More About IDEA

If you are the parent of a child with a disability, you need to know about proposed changes to the IDEA that may affect your child. For news, resources, alerts, please go to our IDEA Reauthorization Page

Many reports and studies have identified the strengths and weaknesses of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and our current system of educating children with disabilities. Read these reports. Familiarize yourself with the issues.

Your Senators and Representatives should read these reports before they undertake the job of revising this law. When you write to your members of Congress, refer to these reports.

5. Your Role: Speak Up for the Kids

You need to pay attention to the bills that are coming out of the House and Senate. As you learn about changes to the law, you need to contact your members of Congress to let them know your thoughts.

Read good advice about "Communicating with Elected Officials" by phone, letter and email.

When you write to your Representative or Senator, your letter will be more effective if you describe a real situation with your child or in your school, classroom, or district. Get to the point.

Be a hero - speak up for the kids! Lack confidence in your letter-writing skills? Read "12 Rules for Writing Great Letters"

Tip: You'll find two chapters about letter writing and more than a dozen sample letters in our "From Emotions to Advocacy book.

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Pete and Pam Wright
Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043
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Email: newsletter@wrightslaw.com