As Schools Open, Congress Eyes IDEA Reauthorization Congressional Leaders Meet, but Bills Still Stalled Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   September 01, 2004
As Schools Open, Congress Eyes IDEA Reauthorization
Author Notes
  • Neil Snyder, is ASHA’s director of federal advocacy. For more information or questions about the reauthorization and funding of IDEA, contact him by e-mail at nsnyder@asha.org or by phone at 800-498-2071, ext. 4257.
    Neil Snyder, is ASHA’s director of federal advocacy. For more information or questions about the reauthorization and funding of IDEA, contact him by e-mail at nsnyder@asha.org or by phone at 800-498-2071, ext. 4257.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   September 01, 2004
As Schools Open, Congress Eyes IDEA Reauthorization
The ASHA Leader, September 2004, Vol. 9, 2-21. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.09172004.2
The ASHA Leader, September 2004, Vol. 9, 2-21. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.09172004.2
Four congressional leaders met just before the August recess to discuss whether the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives could move forward to “conference” the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). But congressional staff indicated that little progress-if any-was made in settling partisan differences that have kept many bills from advancing this election year. A party-line split in the Senate has prevented many bills passed by both chambers from going to conference, including H.R.1350 which affects IDEA.
New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, the Republican who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), called the July 22 meeting on IDEA, which included the “Big Four” in Congress-in the Senate, Gregg and Democrat Edward Kennedy, ranking committee member; and in the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee; and its ranking member, Rep. George Miller (D-CA). The meeting was a last-ditch effort to seek agreement in order to finish consideration of IDEA before the six-week summer break. Although consensus remained beyond reach, a conference could occur this fall, although with elections heating up, chances appear slim.
Key IDEA Issues
Several issues of concern to ASHA members remain unresolved between the House and Senate versions of IDEA legislation, including:
  • Highest qualified provider standards. The most urgent IDEA issue for school-based SLPs and audiologists is the attempt to significantly reduce and/or eliminate minimum standards for related services personnel. In response to complaints from some school administrators about the difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified related service providers, the House passed a provision [Part B, Section 612, (a)(14)] in H.R.1350 that removed the long-established standards that affect school-based clinicians. The Senate passed an IDEA bill that provides more guidance for schools seeking qualified providers, but it fails to ensure state-wide standards of care for children with disabilities.

    “Removal of these standards will greatly compromise the level of quality that children receive through IDEA services,” said Kate Gottfred, ASHA’s vice president for governmental and social policies.

    “Another problem is the removal of state personnel standards proposed in the House passed version of H.R.1350. This would create a considerable disparity in the qualifications standards for Medicaid and other federal programs supporting children with disabilities.”

    To address the concerns that certain areas of the country have had difficulty in hiring and retaining fully qualified SLPs, ASHA has worked closely on these issues with the House and Senate committees represented by the “Big Four.” ASHA presented a commonsense proposal that will help harmonize the Medicaid and IDEA programs, cut paperwork, and address problems of children being mislabeled as having a disability.

    “Our goal is to come up with a workable solution that provides quality services to children with disabilities in a more cost-effective manner,” said Gottfred.

  • Personnel preparation. Another issue of concern is the proposed elimination of specific provisions in the IDEA Part D section, Personnel Preparation, of both House and Senate bills. Provisions would end support for (1) pre-service preparation for individuals who work with children who have high-incidence disabilities (such as specific learning disabilities, speech/language impairments or mental retardation), and (2) “Projects of National Significance” that fund model development, evaluation and dissemination in personnel preparation, and other activities with broad applicability.

  • Assistive technology. ASHA has additional concerns about language in the Senate passed H.R.1350 that modified the definition of “assistive technology device” (Part A, Section 602, paragraph (1)). The new language excludes devices that were “surgically implanted, or the post-surgical maintenance, programming or replacement of such device…” This broad language would unfairly affect children with hearing loss who have cochlear implants. ASHA supports development of legislative language that clarifies a school’s responsibilities in helping both students and parents of children with disabilities. Clarification is also needed in IDEA requirements concerning devices necessary for multiple purposes (e.g., developmental, medical, health, and educational well-being).

    “Much confusion currently exists about IDEA requirements for assistive technology-especially about whether schools are responsible for providing personal use devices needed outside of the school day to meet functional life needs,” said Diane Cordry Golden, an SLP and director of the Missouri Assistive Technology Council.

    “Devices such as hearing aids and augmentative communication devices (along with eyeglasses, wheelchairs, respirators, and suctioning equipment) are items that fall into this confusing category, she said. “To reduce the potential for school-family conflict, it would be helpful if the IDEA definition of assistive technology clarified the range and scope of devices that are a school’s responsibility. SLPs and audiologists need clearer direction on this issue.”

    Currently, IDEA allows schools not to pay for certain technological devices that are deemed “medical” and not educational in nature. Devices that would be considered medical, using the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Cedar Rapids v. Garrett, would include surgically implanted items and other items requiring physician delivery, such as a cochlear implant. The new language in the Senate version of H.R.1350 appears to repeat the already existing medical exclusion since a surgically implanted device requires physician delivery. ASHA is supporting the House assistive technology device definition and is urging congress to reject the Senate language.

IDEA Funding
In other IDEA developments, the House Appropriations Committee approved a FY2005 spending package for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services (HHS) and Education (ED). The bill included an additional $1 billion in IDEA Part B special education grants to states, for a total of $11.6 billion in 2005, a positive trend that still falls far short of the mandated 40% funding for Part B. The committee approved President Bush’s request for the IDEA Part C grant of $466.5 million for infants and families, a modest increase of approximately $22 million.
Part D personnel preparation funding will remain at level funding from 2004, equaling just over $91 million. In the face of increasing doctoral shortages in special education fields the level funding will only exacerbate a dire situation. Rep. David Obey (D-WI) offered an amendment to the bill that would have provided an additional $5.5 billion above the levels for education programs in the base bill. However, it was defeated on a party-line vote. As of press time the Senate has taken no formal action on FY2005 IDEA funding.
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September 2004
Volume 9, Issue 17