House Republicans Initiate Changes To IDEA
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 20, 2003
WASHINGTON, DC--Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed legislation that would renew the 1975 Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) but with some significant changes to the law which governs education of children with "special needs".
Under the proposal introduced Wednesday, parents would be able to use vouchers to have their students receive special education services from private schools at public expense. The proposed legislation would also encourage earlier intervention for young children with disabilities, and would reduce the current law's paperwork which many consider overwhelming.
Representative Michael N. Castle (R-Delaware.), chair of the Education Reform subcommittee, wrote: "Students and parents deserve improved academic results, teachers must be freed from the crushing paperwork burden, and the system must be untied from the strangling hold of costly and unnecessary litigation."
Many lawmakers and special education advocates blame problems with the IDEA on the fact that the federal government has failed to properly fund the law. Congress in 1975 set a goal of paying 40 percent of IDEA's cost, but the government has never paid even 20 percent.
The Bush administration, which has been pushing for increased academic standards in all areas of education, has proposed the federal government pay for just 19 percent of the program's costs.
"Republicans are fond of saying that when it comes to education, it is not just money that matters," said Representative George Miller (D-California) of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. "I agree. . . . But it is equally true that money does matter if you want to ensure that the reforms can take hold."