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Senate Passes IDEA Reauthorization
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 13, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--In a nearly unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate chose Thursday to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which covers public education for an estimated 7.6 million students with disabilities.

The 95-3 vote left unfulfilled the federal government's promise to provide 40 percent of the funding for special education.

The federal government currently provides about $10 billion for special education, equaling about 19 percent of the average cost per student -- less than half of what it had guaranteed when the IDEA was passed in 1975.

The Senate approved an increase in the annual funding for special education over the next several years, but not a commitment to reach the 40 percent target by 2011 as advocates had wanted.

"We have been trying to accomplish this task for 29 years, and for 29 years we have failed," said Independent Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, one of the three who voted against the measure. "It pains me that we're still debating this issue."

Three years ago this month, Jeffords defected from the Republican Party in part because of the dispute over special education funding. His decision to become an Independent shifted the balance of power within the Senate.

The House of Representatives passed its own IDEA reauthorization last year. Now the House and Senate will need to work out a compromise solution before it goes to the President.

"Nobody in the disability community is greatly enamored with the Senate bill," said Paul Marchand, of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, which coordinates IDEA lobbying efforts of more than 50 national organizations. "On the other hand, the House bill is absolutely not worth supporting."

Provisions in S.1248 would improve the early identification of children with disabilities, while reducing the numbers of students who are incorrectly labeled as having disabilities. It would also encourage mediation in disputes between parents and schools.

The Senate measure would allow classroom teachers to discipline students, as long as the students' behaviors are not caused by their disabilities. The House bill would allow schools to discipline students without considering their disability.

U.S. Congress On the Internet
[Note: Type "S. 1248" in the "Bill Number" box to search for the measure]
"Senator James Jeffords' Fight For Special Education" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)


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