Special Education

Panels To Consider Compromise Spec. Ed. Bill This Week

By Joetta L. Sack — May 07, 1997 3 min read


After more than two months of work behind closed doors, House and Senate negotiators emerged last week with their legislative plan for reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

After a nearly two-year process filled with dramatic proposals to restructure the law, a summary shows the plan is not nearly as far-reaching as it might have been. Many of the proposals that sank last year’s reauthorization are either watered down or removed entirely.

Education committees in both chambers plan to mark up a compromise bill this week. Staff members expect the process to go smoothly, given the time and effort lawmakers, aides, and education and disability-rights advocates invested in the effort.

Trimming bureaucracy and controlling costs for schools were two priorities for the working group, Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Calif., who heads the House subcommittee that handles special education, told reporters last week.

“I hope the reform legislation will help children by focusing more on their education rather than bureaucracy,” Mr. Riggs said.

Discipline Compromise

Lawmakers skirted the issue of how to discipline dangerous disabled students, upholding the IDEA’s guarantee of a free, appropriate education for all students with disabilities.

The compromise outlined last week would give administrators broader authority to remove dangerous disabled students from the classroom for up to 10 days. Students could also be sent to an alternative placement for up to 45 days for crimes involving weapons or drugs.

Lawmakers included provisions that school administrators had begged for to relieve the growing threat of parent lawsuits.

States would be required to set up voluntary mediation systems to settle disputes between parents and school officials over issues such as placement decisions involving children with disabilities. If a school were found at fault in a hearing, the parent could not be awarded lawyer’s fees for time spent in mediation or meetings to discuss an individualized education program, unless the hearing had been ordered by a hearing officer or judge.

State Funding Formula

The working group revamped the funding formula for state grants, but congressional appropriators will have to decide when the new plan should kick in.

The proposed formula would base state grants on a method that takes the total number of children in a state and factors in the state’s poverty level. The current formula would remain in place until federal appropriations reached about $4.9 billion, after which the new formula would be implemented for all new aid above the prior year’s appropriation. Federal special education funding for fiscal 1997 totaled $3.1 billion.

The plan sidesteps a snag that derailed last year’s attempts in the House to change the formula. After critics charged that states overidentified the number of disabled children to collect more federal aid, lawmakers from states with high proportions of disabled students that would have lost money vigorously fought the change.

The compromise bill also cuts the amount states are allowed to retain for statewide programs and administration, capping funds at 1997 levels with adjustments for inflation.

The change angered the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, which maintains that state-level programs are more efficient and save money for local districts.

Assessment, Policy Letters

States also would be required to include disabled students in academic assessments, with any needed accommodations, and would be required to report their results. States would have to create alternative assessments for students unable to participate in the regular tests. States would also have to establish goals and develop performance indicators for disabled students.

The bill also would curtail the Department of Education’s use of policy letters, in which the department answers specific questions about administering the idea. Letters could not be used to set policies, as some critics have charged they do. Federal officials would have to state that their interpretations are not legally binding. If a policy or change originated in a policy letter, the letter would have to be widely disseminated.

The bill also would give states more discretion over the special education services that must be provided to incarcerated youths and adults. California is now fighting federal threats to withhold all IDEA money over its refusal to provide special education services to youths and adults age 21 and younger in prison for violent crimes. (“Issue of Spec. Ed. in Prisons Pits Calif., ED” April 30, 1997.)

Related Tags:


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education 'They Already Feel Like Bad Students.' A Special Educator Reflects on Virtual Teaching
In a year of remote teaching, a high school special ed teacher has seen some of his students struggle and some thrive.
4 min read
Tray Robinson, a special education teacher, sits for a photo at Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos, Calif., on April 21, 2021.
Tray Robinson, a special education teacher, says remote learning has provided new ways for some of his students to soar, and has made others want to quit.
Sarahbeth Maney for Education Week
Special Education What the Research Says Gifted Education Comes Up Short for Low-Income and Black Students
Wildly disparate gifted education programs can give a minor boost in reading, but the benefits mainly accrue to wealthy and white students.
8 min read
Silhouette of group of students with data overlay.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Special Education What the Research Says Most Students With Disabilities Still Attend Remotely. Teachers Say They're Falling Behind
A new survey finds that students with disabilities are struggling in virtual classes, even with added support from teachers.
3 min read
Image shows a young femal student working on a computer from phone, interfacing with an adult female.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Special Education Whitepaper
A Comprehensive Guide to the IEP Process
Download this guide to learn strategies for bringing together all stakeholders to plan an IEP that addresses the whole child; using relia...
Content provided by n2y