Getting Ready for IDEA Congress Likely to Reauthorize Law in 2003 School Matters
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School Matters  |   March 01, 2003
Getting Ready for IDEA
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School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / School Matters
School Matters   |   March 01, 2003
Getting Ready for IDEA
The ASHA Leader, March 2003, Vol. 8, 1-20. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM1.08042003.1
The ASHA Leader, March 2003, Vol. 8, 1-20. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM1.08042003.1
While many school-based clinicians may still be grappling with requirements of the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), this key legislation is once again due to be reviewed and renewed by Congress. The results of this latest reauthorization of IDEA, which serves children with disabilities from birth to age 21, will no doubt affect the practice of school-based speech-language pathologists and audiologists, especially in the areas of paperwork, caseload, and funding.
“In the course of a busy workday, it’s easy for us to forget that federal law has determined a number of our workload tasks,” said Illinois SLP Sharon Foster, who also serves as her state’s ASHA State Education Advocacy Leader (SEAL). “Many of our procedural and documentation requirements have been outlined in IDEA and, as professionals, we are directly affected by the law, along with the children and families we serve.”
“As a district supervisor, I have relied on IDEA ’97 as the standard measure to assure our students are receiving the services they need,” said Oklahoma City SLP Mona Ryan, who is the Oklahoma SEAL and a member of the IDEA National Resource Cadre. “Reauthorization of IDEA must be a priority for the children of our country to continue to live useful and contributing lives.”
Key Issues
ASHA is developing recommendations to Congress for IDEA’s reauthorization. Key areas of focus will include:
  • Caseload/workload. ASHA is developing a legislative proposal to address caseload/workload issues confronting frontline clinicians in the schools. The proposal is based on documents (online) developed by ASHA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Caseload Size. ASHA is breaking new ground in recommending that Congress look at these issues, since caseload/workload has never been addressed in federal legislation.

  • Reduction of paperwork and administrative burdens through the enhanced use of technology. Based upon findings in the ASHA document “Strategies to Reduce Paperwork for School-Based SLPs” (online), the Association is developing recommendations to enable states and local school districts to use technology to address the paperwork burden while maintaining due process and procedural rights for parents and children.

  • Early intervention. ASHA will recommend improvements to the IDEA Part C Early Intervention Grants to Infants and Families Program. The Association is looking at opportunities to coordinate services of children identified with hearing loss under the federal infant early hearing detection initiative and state early intervention programs, improve the proper identification of children with disabilities, and enhance the transition from Part C programs into the Part B program.

  • “Highest qualified provider” provisions. ASHA supports eliminating loopholes in the current law by strengthening highest qualified provider provisions and maintaining high personnel standards for all educators.

  • Full funding of Part B state grants on a specific schedule. An FY 2003 congressional budget resolution passed by House Republicans—but not in the Senate—called for full funding of the federal government’s commitment to IDEA within 10 years, and the House Education and the Workforce Committee lists full funding of IDEA on its 2003 Education Policy Agenda. Further, the Senate passed an amendment to fully fund IDEA in 2002, and 30 senators cosponsored legislation for mandatory full funding of IDEA in the 107th Congress. The upcoming reauthorization provides Congress with the opportunity to realize the promise of fully funding IDEA and instituting needed reforms.

Impact of Elections
The 2002 elections have resulted in changes on Capitol Hill—in control, leadership, and membership on key committees—that will likely affect the reauthorization of IDEA and other key issues during the two-year term of the 108th Congress. In the Senate, the Republican Party has regained control, and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) has taken over the chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee from Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA).
In the House of Representatives, there are no expected changes in the leadership of the Education and the Workforce Committee, with Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) returning as chairman and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) returning as ranking minority member. Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) is expected to return as chairman of the Education Reform Subcommittee, the primary subcommittee for oversight and reauthorization of IDEA.
The final major change on Capitol Hill is the fact that the Republican Party has consolidated power over both chambers of Congress, along with control of the executive branch, giving the party immense power over the entire legislative process.
Neither the Bush administration nor Republican congressional leaders have put forth a formal schedule or agenda for IDEA reauthorization. While President Bush’s January State of the Union address touched only briefly on education, with no specific reference to IDEA, last month he gave Congress his FY 2004 budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Education and federal education programs. He requested an average increase of 5.6%—$2.8 billion—over FY 2003 requested levels. Both the House and Senate are currently crafting their FY 2004 education funding requests.
While the president has requested a $1 billion-per-year increase in IDEA funding—the largest IDEA funding increase ever proposed by a president—under his proposal, it would still take more than 32 years for IDEA to be fully funded. (See chart above for Bush’s proposed FY 2004 IDEA funding.) ASHA and other members of the IDEA Full Funding Coalition will continue to advocate for mandatory full funding of Part B of IDEA.
This year, Congress will be confronted with a full agenda and a short window of opportunity to move agenda items before the start of the presidential election season early in 2004. This fall, the current authorizations for IDEA Part C Early Intervention and Part D National Programs will expire, and funding for all IDEA programs needs to be completed by Sept. 30. ASHA expects Congress to complete the reauthorization of IDEA in late 2003 or very early in 2004.
Call to Action
As IDEA’s reauthorization moves forward, ASHA members will need to keep pace to advocate for children receiving speech, language, and hearing services. While ASHA staff and leadership will continue to address the issue at the national level, SLPs and audiologists in the schools can leverage their position as voters in their contacts with federal legislators.
“The reauthorization of IDEA opens a national discussion about the future of special education,” Foster said. “As practitioners who work daily with the provisions of IDEA, the reauthorization process affords us the opportunity—and responsibility—to advocate for effective services and procedures.”
Neil Snyder is ASHA’s director of federal advocacy. Contact him through the Action Center at 800-498-2071, ext. 4257, or by e-mail at nsnyder@asha.org.
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March 2003
Volume 8, Issue 4