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Published in Print: December 1, 2004, as The New IDEA

Overview: The New IDEA

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The reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, approved by Congress in late November and now awaiting President Bush’s signature, would make changes in several areas of special education.

Highly qualified teachers: Under the bill, special education teachers must be "highly qualified" by the end of the 2005-06 school year, even if they are teaching multiple subjects to students. New special education teachers would have extra time to become certified in different subjects, as long as they were highly qualified in at least one.

Student discipline: Schools would have more freedom to remove disruptive students from the classroom if their behavior wasn't related to their disabilities. Under current law, the school has to make the case that a disruptive student needs to be moved to another educational setting. Under the reauthorization, a child could be moved, and it would be up to the parents to appeal the decision.

Funding: The measure commits the federal government in principle to paying 40 percent of the average per-pupil cost of educating a special education student by 2011. The federal government now pays about 19 percent of such costs.

Paperwork reduction: Minor changes to a student's individualized education plan could be made in a conference call or by letter. Fifteen states would be chosen to try out a paperwork-reduction plan that would free up more time for teachers.

Complaints: A two-year statute of limitations would be placed on a parent's ability to file a special education complaint, with a 90-day limit for appeals. Hearing officers would focus on whether a child was denied an appropriate education, not procedural mistakes. Lawyers could be held liable for filing complaints deemed frivolous.

Vol. 24, Issue 14, Page 32

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