[esd-dir] OSE- IDEA State Coalition Letter to Senate 02-19-04
Debra.Zerbe at state.or.us
Thu Feb 26 15:45:06 PST 2004
This morning four state entities -- the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Association of State Boards of Education and the National Conference of State Legislatures held a press briefing on IDEA reauthorization, specifically on the Senate bill, S. 1248 and their joint concerns from a state perspective. These organizations have been working together for the past few months, meeting with Congressional staff to voice concerns about certain aspects of the Senate bill. The organizations sent a letter to all members of the Senate last week reiterating our concerns. Below is the content of the letter that was sent*. NASDSE is particularly pleased to be working with these organizations because there is strength in numbers and these organizations represent those at the state level who are charged with implementing IDEA.
Office of Special Education
*Note to readers: In this format all special formatting is lost, including the letterhead and signatures from the original document. We apologize if this causes any inconvenience.
February 19, 2004
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
As representatives of the state entities responsible for the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), we remain concerned about several aspects of S. 1248, "The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2003," which is scheduled to come to the Senate floor for a vote in mid-March. We hope that our concerns can be addressed either in the Manager's amendment or the two as- yet undesignated amendments.
While there are many positive aspects to S. 1248 with which our members are genuinely pleased, the purpose of this letter is to urge your support that would address the following issues shared by all of our members, which include state legislators, chief state school officers, members of state boards of education and the state directors of special education.
Our members appreciate the Congressional efforts that have provided significant funding increases for IDEA. Nevertheless, federal funding for IDEA provides approximately 20 percent of the funding for educational supports and services for students with disabilities, a far cry from the promised 40% when the law was initially enacted in 1975. We urge you to consider guaranteeing full funding for IDEA when this issue is brought to the Senate floor for consideration. Guaranteed full funding is particularly important if the new law is to be successfully implemented in conjunction with the goal of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to ensure that no child - including a child with a disability - is left behind.
The issue of "highly qualified teachers" has not been adequately resolved in either the House or Senate IDEA reauthorization bills. The House IDEA reauthorization bill, H.R. 1350, incorporates the NCLB highly qualified teacher definition, but failed to take into account the different environments in which special education teachers work. While S. 1248 attempts to address different special education environments, it fails to recognize that special education teachers may work in more than one educational environment, e.g., elementary and secondary schools. Thus, as currently written, S. 1248 will require many special education teachers, especially those who work in small school districts, to meet several different standards for special education teachers (elementary, secondary and resource). We urge that the Manager's amendment include language to address this concern. Our organizations have drafted specific language to ensure that students with disabilities have unfettered access to highly qualified teachers while not holding special education teachers to a higher, or more onerous, qualification standard than their general education peers. (Please feel free to contact any of the individuals listed at the end of this letter for a copy of our proposed language.)
The Senate bill contains numerous new data collection requirements with no additional resources to put these systems in place. States are already struggling to deal with the new data requirements under NCLB. We recommend that additional funding be provided to the states to develop the information systems and for the maintenance and collection of data and that the requirements for the collection of new data be phased in over a period of time in order to allow states to put appropriate information systems in place to collect the data. Furthermore, we urge the postponement of new data collection until the Department of Education can develop appropriate data templates for the states for the new data collection requirements.
The data collection requirements are particularly troublesome in light of the fact that funding for state-level administrative activities is frozen at FY 2003 levels and only allows increases based on inflation for state-level activities after FY 2005.
We have significant concerns with Section 616, "Monitoring, Technical Assistance and Enforcement," which as currently written, requires the Secretary of Education to determine whether a state shows "significant lack of progress" or is in "substantial noncompliance" or "egregious noncompliance." These terms are not defined in the bill, leaving states uncertain as to what is required to be in compliance. We urge that this section be rewritten to focus on the achievement of outcomes through the development of a sound remedial plan, the implementation of which is overseen by the Department of Education.
We remain concerned about the stringent risk pool language contained in Section 611(e)(3) and urge that the establishment of risk pools be changed to an optional state activity consistent with the language in H.R. 1350.
Our organizations would be happy to work with you on appropriate legislative language to address these concerns. We thank you for your hard work and for your attention to our concerns.
William T. Pound
National Conference of State Legislatures
National Association of State Boards of Education
G. Thomas Houlihan
Council of Chief State School Officers
Bill East, Ed.D.
National Association of State
Directors of Special Education
Organization Contact Information:
The National Conference of State Legislatures
David Shreve, david.shreve at ncsl.org <mailto:david.shreve at ncsl.org>, 202-624-8187
The National Association of State Boards of Education
David Griffith, davidg at nasbe.org <mailto:davidg at nasbe.org>, 703-684-4000, ext. 107
The Council of Chief State School Officers
Jordan Cross, jcross at ccsso.org <mailto:jcross at ccsso.org>, 202-336-7023
The National Association of State Directors of Special Education
Nancy Reder, nreder at nasdse.org <mailto:nreder at nasdse.org>, 703-519-3300, ext. 334
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