The House passed its version of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act last week. The bill, whose lead sponsor is Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., would:
- Allow states to use 15 percent of their idea funding for programs that would help students who may have disabilities before they are placed in special education. The programs would provide early intervention and are aimed at keeping some of the students from needing special education.
- Reduce paperwork by letting school districts (with parental consent) create individualized education plans—federally required educational road maps for students with disabilities—every three years, rather than annually, as required now. The measure also would set up a 10-state pilot program for states to reduce paperwork by allowing districts and parents to agree to change ieps without holding an iep meeting.
- Authorize idea spending to increase by $2.2 billion in fiscal 2004, which begins Oct. 1, bringing the federal subsidy to 21 percent of the average cost of educating all students in the United States. The measure would authorize the addition of $2.5 billion in fiscal 2005, bumping federal funding to 25 percent and bringing the total federal aid to $13.4 billion.
- Require that any additional increases in federal funding, above fiscal 2003 levels, go directly to districts rather than to state education agencies.
- Allow schools to suspend or expel students with disabilities not only for the most serious infractions, such as bringing a gun to school, as current law allows, but also for violating student codes of conduct. As the bill is currently constituted, suspended or expelled students would be guaranteed educational services after 10 days out of school.
- Place the burden on parents to initiate the investigative process on whether students’ disciplinary incidents were a result of their disabilities. Under current law, schools are required to investigate disciplinary incidents to determine if students’ misbehavior was due to their disabilities.
- Require parents to have a specific grievance when they file an official complaint, and institute a one-year statute of limitations from the time of a violation to the time when a parent could file a complaint.
- Call for districts with a disproportionately high number of minority students in special education to run pre-referral programs that work to reduce the number of such students designated as having disabilities.
- Encourage training of special education and regular education teachers to work with students with disabilities.
- Ensure that states align their accountability systems for students with disabilities with mainstream state accountability systems, and require that special education teachers be “highly qualified” to teach in core subjects, just like educators in schools’ regular programs.
- Eliminate the use of IQ tests to diagnose learning disabilities.