Reauthorizing IDEA—The Marathon Begins Slowly but surely, the process of reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA) is beginning in Washington, DC. Recently, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held its first hearing on the law. Last fall, Robert H. Pasternack, assistant secretary for the Office of Special ... School Matters
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School Matters  |   April 01, 2002
Reauthorizing IDEA—The Marathon Begins
Author Notes
  • Neil Snyder, is ASHA’s director of federal advocacy.
    Neil Snyder, is ASHA’s director of federal advocacy.×
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School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / School Matters
School Matters   |   April 01, 2002
Reauthorizing IDEA—The Marathon Begins
The ASHA Leader, April 2002, Vol. 7, 1-20. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.07082002.1
The ASHA Leader, April 2002, Vol. 7, 1-20. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.07082002.1
Slowly but surely, the process of reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA) is beginning in Washington, DC. Recently, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held its first hearing on the law. Last fall, Robert H. Pasternack, assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education (ED), conducted a multi-city “listening tour” on IDEA in preparation for the reauthorization. Finally, President Bush issued an executive order creating the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education. The group’s mission is to study issues related to federal, state, and local special education programs with the goal of “recommending policies for improving the education performance of students with disabilities.”
What does this mean for school-based clinicians? Most likely it means the beginning of a long and contentious reauthorization process. Although portions of IDEA expire this fall, the White House, ED, and Congress will probably not be able to complete a full reauthorization of IDEA until next year. But much will transpire between now and then, and the reauthorization debate may heat up quickly. Clinicians and parents—often the most effective advocates on behalf of children with communication disorders—need to know the major issues affecting school-based services for those children:
IDEA funding. The annual battle to require the federal government to fully fund IDEA Part B state grants will take on added importance during the reauthorization. Full funding of IDEA Part B would pump billions of additional federal dollars every year into state and local special education budgets. State and local governments would then determine their priorities for special education—when advocacy by ASHA members would mean the most on issues like reduced caseloads/workloads, salary supplements, newer technology, more pre-service and in-service training, and better working conditions.
“Highest qualified provider” provisions. There is not a consensus on these provisions. Some propose weakening this language as a remedy for personnel shortages, while others support the stricter standards for regular education teachers in the No Child Left Behind Act. ASHA supports strengthening current provisions and providing continuity throughout IDEA.
Part C—Early intervention programs. Since the passage of IDEA 1997, federal early hearing detection and intervention legislation has been enacted, and more than 40 states have implemented newborn hearing screening programs. Unfortunately, federal data indicate that even with newborn hearing screening, many children with hearing loss are not receiving services from early intervention programs such as Part C. ASHA will push for added emphasis on the transition from the hospital into Part C and the transition from Part C into Part B preschool programs.
Part D—Personnel preparation programs. There is a significant shortage of individuals pursuing doctoral degrees in speech-language pathology and audiology, and vacancies are not being filled at many graduate academic programs. ASHA continues to advocate for greater resources targeted at reducing this shortage and will lobby for increased funding for graduate academic programs that focus on the training of multi-lingual professionals.
Additional issues that may be addressed during the reauthorization of IDEA include:
  • financing of children with “high-cost/low-incidence” disabilities

  • reduction in the number or modification of the definition of specific disabilities

  • the litigious nature of the act

  • discipline of children with disabilities

  • the paperwork burden

As a model for reauthorizing IDEA, President Bush will look to his success in the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. That law includes a call for higher standards for teachers and annual testing of students in reading and math. The mid-term federal elections this November (see “ Let Your Voice Be Heard: Vote ” online) will determine if congressional power remains divided, with the Senate being controlled by the Democrats and the House by the Republicans. If the Democrats keep control of the Senate, President Bush will have to negotiate a final reform package or delay reauthorization until 2005.
What can you do to advocate for the issues you care about? Contact your congressional representative and your senators by fax or email. To locate your member of the House of Representatives, visit http://www.house.gov/ . To locate your senators, visit http://www.senate.gov/ . Invite your member of Congress to visit your school, or schedule an appointment with them in their district during one of the upcoming congressional breaks, which occur around Memorial Day, Independence Day, and during the August recess.
For more information about the reauthorization of IDEA, contact Neil Snyder through the Action Center at 800-498-2071, ext. 4257, or by email at nsndyer@asha.org.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
April 2002
Volume 7, Issue 8