The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 - what a bold idea, what a great idea.
Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.
So, how has it done?
First, the problem, why enact the IDEA act?
Before the date of enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-142), the educational needs of millions of children with disabilities were not being fully met because--
(A) the children did not receive appropriate educational services;
(B) the children were excluded entirely from the public school system and from being educated with their peers;
(C) undiagnosed disabilities prevented the children from having a successful educational experience; or
(D) a lack of adequate resources within the public school system forced families to find services outside the public school system.
The EAHC act was designed to address those concerns. With some exceptions, it has done pretty well with B and C. But, what about A and D?
Well, not so good. That is where the IDEA Act would come into play, the IDEA act would pick up the pace and help disabled children realize their full potential. President Bush has promised as much.
In the spirit of the ADA, my Administration's New Freedom Initiative has expanded access to assistive technologies, education, and opportunities for people with disabilities to integrate into the workforce. I signed into law legislation that improves the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to ensure that our young people with disabilities are prepared for the many opportunities ahead. Through these and other efforts, we are working to ensure that Americans with disabilities can realize the promise of America.
You see it's important to the Republicans and they control the U.S. House, Senate, and Presidency - so it gets done. Right? Well, no. I was looking through legislation the other day and I couldn't help but notice a group of IDEA Act funding proposals.
* Full Funding for IDEA Now Act of 2003 (Introduced in House)[H.R.823.IH]
* Achieving Our IDEA Act of 2003 (Introduced in House)[H.R.1398.IH]
* Realizing the Spirit of IDEA Act (Introduced in House)[H.R.1576.IH]
I wondered why we had these bills, so I looked through the text and emailed some people and here's the thing - we don't fund the IDEA Act. Rather, let's be specific here, the Republican-controlled House, Senate, and Presidency don't fund the IDEA Act. So we're left with a group of bills that try to shame the Republicans into funding the program for diabled children.
H. R. 823 - The purpose of this Act is to attain the Federal Government's goal under part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1411 et seq.) of providing 40 percent of the national current average per pupil expenditure to assist States and local educational agencies with the excess costs of educating children with disabilities and to make such funding mandatory.
They all say about the same thing, the Federal Government needs to live up to its promise, of providing 40% of the national current average per pupil blah blah blah - they need to pay 40% of what it takes to pay for the education of disabled students. So, what are they paying?
From a government informant:
Yes sir, that is pretty much why we always have a bill or to "Fully Fund IDEA". It has never been funded at the level as promised when the bill was passed and signed into law -- 40%. Rather, most states [receive] around 9-14% reimbursement of special ed costs from our Federal Government. One day, hopefully, we will achieve full funding.
Full funding isn't going to come from wishes and a prayer though, it's going to come from Congress, and an election year might be just the time to push for this great IDEA.
Here's the question you each need to call and ask your Republican and Democratic candidate for Congress - "Will you co-sign legislation, that will once again be submitted in the 110th Congress, to fully fund the IDEA Act?" Yes or No. Don't take "I support blah blah blah" for an answer. Yes or No.
This should be easy, after all there are a number of Republicans in Congress who are on the Autism Caucus, and children with Autism are some of those MOST in need of these services. But, let's not limit it:
Currently, almost 2.9 million school-aged children in the US are classified as having specific learning disabilities (SLD) and receive some kind of special education support. They are approximately 5% of all school-aged children in public schools. These numbers do not include children in private and religious schools or home-schooled children.
It's time to make this IDEA a reality.