Upcoming Conference: The conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and the centrist Democratic Leadership Council’s Progressive Policy Institute will host a conference on special education issues in November.
Sponsored by a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the two-day conference will take a critical look both at what’s working and what needs to be fixed in special education.
Conference officials will not push a particular view of how the problems should be fixed, said Andrew Rotherham, the PPI’s education policy adviser, but rather try to find creative solutions to solving those problems.
The November meeting will not be the first time the two Washington- based policy groups, which often have divergent opinions, have held joint conferences.
Last year, the two convened to discuss recommendations for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main federal K-12 law.
“We are of one mind that, with all education policy, fresh thinking is desperately needed,” Mr. Rotherham said. “There is a general agreement that special education isn’t working as well as it could be.”
The conference will feature papers and presentations by researchers, historians, and journalists with experience in special education.
It will be held in Washington on Nov. 13 and 14.
Assessing the IDEA: Though Congress is not scheduled to re-examine the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act until 2002, some lawmakers are already beginning to discuss changes to the federal special education law.
U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-Colo., said in a recent interview that he had met with other Republicans to discuss ways to bring the law back up for amendment before the second session of the 107th Congress convenes in January 2002.
Mr. Schaffer—who serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee—said that he and some others in Congress support the large increases in funding that IDEA has seen in recent years, but worry that some schools may overidentify students as needing special education services in order to receive more federal aid.
“Congress needs to look at the problem of misidentification of children,” Mr. Schaffer said.
“It’s an explosive issue,” he said, adding that some members of Congress are wary of revisiting the law. But Mr. Schaffer thinks hesitation would be a mistake."I don’t think we can avoid it any longer,” he said.
—Joetta L. Sack