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Summer 2004 Table of Contents
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IDEA Reauthorization Update

By Beth Dennis, Children's/Transition Consultant, DARS Blind Services Division

Abstract: This article provides a summary of the bills passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate to reauthorize IDEA.

Key Words: Individuals with Disabilities Act, IDEA, IDEA reauthorization, special education, legislation, News & Views

Bill Reauthorization History (taken from Wrightslaw.com)

On April 30, 2003, the House of Representatives voted 251-171 to approve HR 1350, the Republican bill to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The New York Times reported, `The bill is intended to reduce the number of students deemed learning disabled by helping struggling children earlier. It is also intended to cut down on the paperwork involved in special education, and reduce the legal expenses of states that face lawsuits from parents seeking extra help for disabled children." However, many consumer groups have opposed the bill because it proposes "optional" 3-year IEPs, eliminates IEP objectives and benchmarks, weakens procedural safeguards and protections for parents and kids, and allows schools to suspend or expel students who have behavior problems for violating school "codes of conduct even if the misbehavior is related to their disabilities."

On May 13, the Senate passed S. 1248, the Senate version of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), on a 95-3 vote. According to Wrightslaw, "this bill is significantly different from the bill passed by the House of Representatives last year. A joint House-Senate conference committee will meet in an effort to resolve these differences. After the House and Senate agree on a compromise bill, they will vote on the final version of the bill. Although we cannot predict what Congress will do, it seems unlikely that the House and Senate will resolve their differences this year (an election year). If the conference committee does not develop a compromise bill that is acceptable to the Senate and House this year, IDEA will be reintroduced next year."

Bill Provisions

The AFB website noted that HR 1350 includes provisions that would facilitate access to printed educational material. These provisions accomplish certain key elements contained in the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (HR 490). While this is a welcome development, this language does not include a central repository, capacity-building grants and state plan requirements that are part of the IMAA legislation. The National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard referred to in the legislation is presumed to be the standard being developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Education (See the Dept. of Education issues press release: "Voluntary National Standard for Accessible Digital Instructional Materials to be Developed").

The American Council for the Blind website indicated support for several specific provisions in Senate bill 1248, including:

They also note their opposition to the provisions in the IDEA that are going to hurt children and families. These provisions include caps on attorney's fees and paperwork reduction efforts that harm protections for parents and students. They are also calling for mandatory full funding of part B.

The Center for Law and Education, an interdisciplinary research institute established by Harvard University and the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, whose mission is "to protect and advance the legal interests of the poor through research and action on the legal implications of educational policies, particularly those affecting equality of educational opportunity," states on their website that Senate Bill 1248:

Several groups, including TASH, the League of SpecialEd Voters, and Our Children Left Behind, opposed the bill stating that S.1248 will hurt our children by:

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010