The U.S. Department of Education released proposed regulations June 10 for the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that seek to give educators further guidance on how to serve the nation’s 6.7 million children in special education.
Though the regulations were posted on the Education Department’s Web site, the 75-day period for the public to make comments will not start until they are published in the Federal Register sometime the week of June 13, said Troy R. Justesen, the acting director of the department’s office of special education programs. The department has set a goal of issuing final regulations for the revised IDEA by December.
Mr. Justesen said the department was seeking feedback on several issues. One is the structure of the regulations themselves, which under the draft follow the outline of the law itself.
“If you have a general sense of where [a subject] is in the statute, you’ll have a general sense of where it is in the regulations,” he said. The proposed regulations also come with table so that educators can see where in the lengthy regulations particular provisions may be found, and if they’ve moved from their old location.
Mr. Justesen said he was also interested in hearing from the public about the regulations’ provisions for highly qualified teachers under the IDEA, and the changes in responsibility for students with special education needs who are placed in private schools by their parents.
The revised law, passed late last year, requires that special education teachers be “highly qualified”in every subject they teach, which has been a concern for some teachers who instruct students in more than one subject. The law also states that a school district must provide some special education services to out-of-districtstudents who attend school within that district. The provision is a change from the previous version of the law, which said that a school district was responsible only for students who lived in the district.
The department would also like input on the part of the regulations that are intended to help schools determine whether students have learning disabilities, Mr. Justesen said.
Mr. Justesen, who said his team has been working on the regulations seven days a week since late December, said he believes the regulations do a good job of hewing to the wishes of the drafters of the law.
“It isn’t my role to try and write law,” he said. “My role is to explain and make useful what the president and Congress wanted to do.”
Education Department officials are about to embark on a trip around the country for seven public hearings on the proposed regulations. The first hearing is June 17 in Nashville, Tenn.
In an unusual move, Mr. Justesen and other department officials also gathered information at informal public hearings earlier this year, before the draft regulations were released.
“That had never been done before, and I think it turned out well,” he said. “Sometimes we would be thinking something was one way, and as soon as we got outside the [Capital] Beltway, we found out we were completely wrong.”
The public response “is very helpful for us,” he said.