Special Education

Presidential Candidates Focus On Spec. Ed.

By Joetta L. Sack — July 12, 2000 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When Al Gore and Jesse Ventura visited schools together late last month, it wasn’t just the unlikely pairing of the earnest vice president and the flamboyant Minnesota governor that stood out. It was also the issue that united them that made news.

The presumptive Democratic nominee for president and the Independent governor appeared together to promote federal special education spending, an unglamorous topic that has come to the forefront of candidates’ education platforms this year.

Both Mr. Gore and Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, the presumptive Republican nominee, are pushing for an increased federal contribution under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the quarter- century-old law that guarantees students with disabilities a free, appropriate public education. They are also taking the special education cause further than previous presidential candidates have done.

This year, the two leading candidates are talking beyond simply increasing funding to advocating the creation of better early-intervention and teaching strategies in special education.

Not long before Mr. Gore’s visit with Gov. Ventura, Mr. Bush released a multi-pronged plan last month to not only increase funding for the IDEA, but also direct other federal aid and programs toward helping students with disabilities.

Increasing special education funding has been a top education priority of the GOP-controlled Congress for the past four years, and more congressional candidates are using the issue in their campaigns—to the delight of many education groups. The attention given special education in the presidential race takes the issue up another notch.

“I’m tickled,” said Bruce Hunter, the chief lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators. “People have mentioned it in the past, but just as a passing thing.”

Both Gov. Bush and Vice President Gore have called for dramatic increases for IDEA state grants, on top of large spending hikes the $5.75 billion program has seen in recent years.

Bush Research Plans

Most lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to see the federal government eventually chip in 40 percent of states’ extra costs for educating students with disabilities, the figure set when the IDEA was originally passed in 1975. Currently, the federal government picks up only about 12 percent of the tab.

In addition, Mr. Bush has called for overhauling the Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitative Research to better coordinate its research and disseminate information on technologies for people with disabilities. He wants to triple funding for the institute’s Rehabilitative Engineering Research Systems, from $11 million to $33 million a year, to help advance research on “assistive” technologies for the disabled. He also advocates funding for hiring staff members to help coordinate projects between federal agencies and help businesses and others gain access to research.

Under the IDEA, Mr. Bush wants to incorporate strategies used in Title I and reading interventions. He has also proposed a new $5 billion, five- year incentive fund for states to help devise strategies to teach students to read by the 3rd grade, an early-intervention strategy that he believes will keep some students from needing special education.

In a speech to disability- rights advocates on June 15, Mr. Bush said that education is the key to living independently. He promised to focus on raising the high school graduation rate for students in special education and helping such students gain access to higher education or job training.

“This is a bold, far-reaching proposal to help Americans with disabilities,” said Scott McClellen, a spokesman for the Bush campaign.

Gore Trust Fund

Mr. Gore, meanwhile, says that as part of his plan to create an “Education Reform Trust Fund,” he intends, if elected, to propose the largest increase ever in IDEA funding in his first budget. His three-year plan would increase the $5.75 billion state grant program by $1.5 billion the first year, then follow up with unspecified large increases for the next two years, according to his campaign. Using part of the anticipated federal budget surplus, the $115 billion trust fund would also include programs for universal preschool, teacher recruitment and pay hikes, and after-school activities.

Mr. Gore, who has said special education should be a nonpartisan issue, first called for increasing IDEA funding during this year’s New Hampshire Democratic primary. In recent years, though, the Clinton administration has riled some education advocates by proposing only small increases for IDEA state grants, choosing to direct more money toward new initiatives such as class-size reduction.

“We’re very happy and hope [the vice president] maintains that stance,” Lynda Van Kuren, a spokeswoman for the Council for Exceptional Children, a special education advocacy group in Reston, Va., said of Mr. Gore’s plan.

Mr. Gore’s plan also would set up or expand “funding pools,” managed by states, to help districts defray costs of extraordinarily expensive individualized education plans in public schools; create an early-identification and early-intervention fund to help identify and treat at-risk children in preschool or the early grades; and support training in technology and special education for general education teachers to enable them to work better with the special education students.

Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for the Gore campaign, said Mr. Gore has heard about the need to hike special education funding during his daylong visits to schools on the campaign trail. “He wanted to make a special commitment to special education,” Mr. Cabrera said. “It’s something he feels very strongly about.”

A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2000 edition of Education Week as Presidential Candidates Focus On Spec. Ed.

Events

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.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education
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.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Reframing Behavior: Neuroscience-Based Practices for Positive Support
Reframing Behavior helps teachers see the “why” of behavior through a neuroscience lens and provides practices that fit into a school day.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute
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.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Math for All: Strategies for Inclusive Instruction and Student Success
Looking for ways to make math matter for all your students? Gain strategies that help them make the connection as well as the grade.
Content provided by NMSI

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 Download DOWNLOADABLE: Does Your School Use These 10 Dimensions of Student Belonging?
These principles are designed to help schools move from inclusion of students with disabilities in classrooms to true belonging.
1 min read
Image of a group of students meeting with their teacher. One student is giving the teacher a high-five.
Laura Baker/Education Week via Canva
Special Education Inside a School That Doesn’t Single Out Students With Special Needs
Students with disabilities at this school near Seattle rarely have to leave mainstream rooms to receive the services they need.
8 min read
During recess at Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Woodinville, Wash., students have cards with objects and words on them so that all students, including those who cannot speak, can communicate. Pictured here on April 2, 2024.
During recess at Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Woodinville, Wash., students have access to cards with objects and words on them so that all students, including those who do not speak, can communicate. Pictured here, a student who has been taught how to lead and use commands with a campus service dog does so under the supervision of a staff member on April 2, 2024.
Meron Menghistab for Education Week
Special Education 5 Tips to Help Students With Disabilities Feel Like They Belong
An expert on fostering a sense of belonging in schools for students with disabilities offers advice on getting started.
4 min read
At Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Woodinville, Wash., special education students are fully a part of the general education classrooms. What that looks like in practice is students together in the same space but learning separately – some students are with the teacher, some with aides, and some are on their own with a tablet. Pictured here on April 2, 2024.
A student works with a staff member at Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Woodinville, Wash. on April 2, 2024. Special education students at the school are fully a part of general education classrooms.
Meron Menghistab for Education Week
Special Education What the Research Says One Group of Teachers Is Less Likely to Identify Black Students for Special Ed. Why That Matters
Researchers say their findings argue for diversifying the teacher workforce.
4 min read
Full length side view of Black female instructor in mid 40s with hand on shoulder of a Black elementary boy as they stand in corridor and talk.
E+/Getty