CHN: Senate HELP Committee Prepares for IDEA Reauthorization

Committee Holds Third Hearing on the Act
On Thursday, June 6, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), held a hearing on the oversight of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This is the HELP Committee’s third hearing this year focused on IDEA, which is set to be reauthorized by Congress in 2003.

The committee heard testimony from a variety of speakers representing parents of children with special needs, special education program coordinators, school superintendents, and education advocates. The hearing focused on a range of oversight issues including Individual Education Plans, the training and retention of special needs teachers, improving performance outcomes of special education students, and overall program funding.

Special education funding was a controversial issue earlier this year when Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). During Conference Committee negotiations, Senate Democrats offered proposals to increase special education spending over the next ten years and to make special education funding mandatory beginning in fiscal year 2003. These plans were rejected by Republicans, who are concerned that the program sends too many children to special education classes unnecessarily and that mandatory funding will curtail any chance of future program reforms.

President Bush has established a Commission on Excellence in Special Education that is charged with collecting information and studying issues related to Federal, State, and local special education programs, with the goal of recommending policies for improving the educational performance of students with disabilities. The Commission is expected to announce it’s recommendations for IDEA reauthorization by the end of the summer, with Congressional leaders creating their own proposals soon after.

Education and Youth Policy