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Capital Hill Watch Alert

Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act of 2003 (H.R. 1350)

 As early as Wednesday, April 30, 2003, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Improving Education Results For Children With Disabilities Act Of 2003 (H.R. 1350) (To view : Full text of legislation ) For children with special needs, this measure would improve education results.  This would be accomplished by placing a renewed emphasis on ensuring that children with disabilities are learning by shifting focus away from compliance with duplicative burdensome and confusing rules. The measure would do the following:

 1.      For children with disabilities, accountability would be increased and education result improved.

For children with special needs, too much emphasis has been placed on compliance with complicated rules by the current Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  And to ensure that academic results are being delivered, not enough emphasis is being placed.   The bill would ensure that the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) specifically addresses academic achievement of students with disabilities; give local school districts in reviewing the progress of a child greater flexibility by replacing benchmarks and short-term objectives with the regular reporting requirements of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB); and ensure that States align their accountability system for students with disabilities to the NCLB Act accountability system.

2.      Paperwork Burden Reduction.

Contributing to the chronic shortage of quality teachers in special education, the overwhelming and unnecessary paperwork burden is forcing good special education teachers to leave the profession frustrated with the current IDEA system.  The measure will incorporate elements of the paperwork reduction bill, that includes the three-year IEP and the use of teleconferencing; create a ten state pilot program allowing states to reduce the IEP paperwork burden in order to improve results for students with disabilities and increase instructional time and resources; and on States and local school districts, streamline and decrease paperwork burden.

3.      Early Intervention Strategies Improvements.

Presently, too many children with reading problems are being diagnosed as learning disabled and placed unnecessarily in special education classes.  Students misidentified have their academic development hindered by this over identification and from the truly learning disabled students, valuable resources are taken away.  Special education will be significantly strengthened across the nation by addressing this problem directly by strengthening the quality of the reading instruction program.  This bill will give to local school districts flexibility to use up to 15 percent of their funds for pre-referral services for students before they are identified as requiring special education.

4.      The Reduction Of Over Identification/ Misidentification Of Non-disabled Children, Including Minority Youth.

Instead of providing positive behavioral intervention and supports and intensive educational interventions, a disproportionate number of minority students are wrongly placed in special education. Compared to their share of the overall population, the proportion of minority students identified in some categories is dramatically greater studies demonstrate.  For example, far out of proportion to their share of the student population, African-American students are labeled as mentally retarded and mentally retarded.  When these students are being removed from regular educational settings and denied access to the core curriculum, this misclassification or inappropriate placement in special education programs can have significant adverse consequences.  To reduce over identification, this measure will require local school districts with significant over identification of minority students to operate pre-referral programs; to encourage greater use of programs that rely on positive behavioral intervention and supports; introduce a response to intervention model that identifies students with specific learning disabilities before the student is failing at grade level; and eliminate the outdated “IQ-discrepancy” model that relies on a “wait to fail” approach for identification of “specific learning disabilities.”

5.      Special Education and General Teachers Support.

Under the current IDEA system, the educational achievement of students with disabilities is hindered by a continuing shortage of special education teachers coupled with a shortage of regular education teachers adequately trained to work with students with disabilities.  To address the educational needs of students with disabilities both current and prospective special education and general education teachers should have professional development.  This bill will do the following: streamline personnel preparation programs and encourage training of both special education teachers and regular education teachers to work with students with disabilities; align IDEA with requirements of NCLB for “highly qualified” teachers so all students with disabilities are taught by a highly qualified teacher in core content areas; and refocus State Professional Development Grants on professional development for school personnel working with students with disabilities.

6.      Reduce Litigation And Restore Trust.

Instead of being used to protect the substantive rights of children with disabilities, litigation under this Act has taken on more of a role of finding and punishing school districts for technical violations.  An attitude of distrust exists between the parents and the school personnel rather than working cooperatively to find the best educational placement and services for the child by this type of litigation.  This measure will establish a statute of limitations of one year from the date of the violation to file a complaint; require that complaints be clear and specific when they are filed; and encourage the use of medication as early as possible and create opportunities for voluntary binding arbitration.

7.      For Parental Involvement And Parental Choice Encourage Innovative Approaches.

In their child’s education experience parents should be active participants.  Often, under the current IDEA parents of students with disabilities however, are not fully informed or are often given limited options.  This bill will 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; 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 enable parents and local school districts to agree to change the IEP without holding an IEP meeting.

8.      Special Education Finance And Funding Reforms.

Complexity without necessity are the current funding streams under IDEA.  Simplified as well as creating a clear path created to reach the Federal full spending goal of 40 percent should be the current funding streams under the Act.  For IDEA Part B grants state this measure will simplify funding streams and to reach the 40 percent goal of Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) through the discretionary appropriations process a clear seven-year path will be established.

9.      School Safety Ensured.

School districts will be required to continue to provide educational services to students with disabilities while allowing school district personnel to have one uniform discipline policy for all children by this legislation.

What Can You Do?  

Urge your representative to SUPPORT the Improving Education Results For Children With Disabilities Act Of 2003 (H.R. 1350)

Contact Information:  

Capitol Hill Switchboard Numbers: 202-225-3121 or 202-224-3121 (Those numbers will direct you to the Capitol Hill operator. Ask for your representative's office.)  

To go to your representative's website, find his E-mail or to find out who your representatives are... http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.html  

To electronically mail your U.S. House of Representative, go to http://www.house.gov/htbin/wrep_findrep.

Addressing Correspondence:

The Honorable (full name)
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative (last name):

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