What's Happening with the Special Education Law?

The following information is from the CEC Public Policy & Advocacy Legislative Action Center.

IDEA Full Funding Fails in Conference.  The amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that would provide mandatory full funding for IDEA has failed to pass in conference on November 30th, 2001 despite strong support for it both in the Senate and among national disability and education groups. The Senate members of the ESEA conferees supported the Harkin/Hagel full funding amendment by a vote of 16 to 9; however, the House members voted against it 8 to 6. Both houses must support and pass an amendment for it to be included in the final conference report.  Some Republican members then offered an amendment that would provide authorization for funding for IDEA, but with no guarantee of appropriations. Since IDEA already provides authorization for up to 40% of the excess cost of special education, this amendment would essentially provide nothing new. The Senate members voted against it 14-11; the House supported it with a vote of 8 to 6.

Thus, ESEA conferees are now at an impasse concerning the full funding issue. But just because we lost this battle, doesn't mean we've completely lost the fight. CEC will continue to fight for IDEA full funding until final completion of ESEA and beyond. It is not uncommon for an issue to take two or more years before Congress supports an issue, and we need to take advantage of the momentum that was built and the awareness that was created surrounding mandatory IDEA full funding, and continue to work just as hard toward that goal when the 107th Congress reconvenes for its second session in January.

The IDEA amendments:

Discipline Amendments Rejected.  Immediately following their discussions on full funding. On this issue, WE WON.  The conferees rejected both the Sessions and the Norwood discipline amendments.

The Senate bill contained the Sessions (R-AL) Amendment that would allow school authorities to cease educational services or segregate students for violations of the school code of conduct. The House bill contained the Norwood (R-GA) Amendment that allows for the cessation of educational services if a student with a disability violates the school code regarding use and possession of a weapon, illegal drugs or commits "aggravated assault and battery," which states would define. Neither amendment will be included in the ESEA conference report.


On April 18, 2002 "Rich Disabled Pupils Go to Private School at Public Expense"
Describes testimony by Chancellor Harold Levy and Francine Goldstein before the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education, points out inacccuracies, and sets the record straight. Read this article and others on Wrightslaw website. 

Effective January 1, 2002:
Our state Special Education law  standard has changed from
"maximum possible development" ("MFB") to
"free appropriate public education" ("FAPE"). 
Special Education law update
Read the ' DOE Administrative Advisory ' (11/20/01).  This letter was sent to our school Administrators and gives guidance on the change.  Here are few highlights:

"The change to the FAPE standard will not affect eligibility for special education, since the standard relates to services provided after a student has been determined to be eligible for special education."

"State and federal law continue to require school districts to focus on the unique needs and strengths of the individual student through the Team evaluation and IEP process."

"The United States Supreme Court has interpreted the term FAPE "free appropriate public education" as the provision of publicly-funded individualized instruction with sufficient support services to permit the student to benefit educationally from the instruction. This education must be provided in the least restrictive environment.  Subsequent federal cases have held that this access to education for students with disabilities must be " meaningful." The decisions also note that the key to any   student's meaningful special education is the development of the Individualized Educational Plan ("IEP") that is tailored to meet the unique needs of the student. 

Two new issues with the law at the federal level.
As of December 1, 2001:
1.IDEA Full Funding Fails in Conference.  The amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that would provide mandatory full funding for IDEA (meaning at 40%) has failed to pass in conference on November 30, despite strong support for it both in the Senate and among national disability and education groups.  Up to now the federal support has only been funded between 8% - 15%. 

2. Discipline Amendments Rejected.  Immediately following their discussions on full funding,  the conferees rejected both the Sessions and the Norwood discipline amendments.  We are happy to tell you that IDEA discipline remains unchanged. 


Legislative Alert
Goal: To send 1000 letters to Congress
by September 5, 2001

Tell your Sentors and Congressman your feeling about the proposed discipline amendment to ESEA, which would allow students with disabilities who are suspended or expelled under IDEA to be denied educational services.

Use the ideas below to write your letters (please do NOT fax, e-mail, or call) this is a write in campain.  Send your letters to our following Senators and Congressman:

It can be very simple letter:
Dear Senator (or Represenative),
Act to remove the IDEA discipline amendments from the ESEA re-authorization.
Consider the discipline issue as part of the IDEA re-authorization in 2002.
    Sign your name, address and telephone number.
    Add the relationship to a special needs student.
For additional information: Visit the LDA website

Other site with information:

IDEA Watch

The Center for Law and Education


The Council for Exceptional Children


August, 2001
The amendment passed by the House was offered by Rep. Charles Norwood
(R-GA) and denies ALL educational services to students with disabilities for
certain types of behavior, even if the behavior is related to their

The amendment passed by the Senate was offered by Sen. Jeff  Sessions
(R-AL).  It would deny educational services to students with  disabilities if
 the behavior for which they are being disciplined is not related to  their
disability.  Another provision undermines current law, including the  right
to a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

The differences between the House and Senate bills will be worked out by the
conference committee.  The Conference Committee may also decide to remove
amendments from the bill.  It is extremely important for all Senators and
Representatives -especially those on the conference committee-- to hear from
their constituents.

Here are the actions you can take:

Call U.S. Senator Kennedy (D-MA) at 617-565-3170
U.S. Representative Marty Meehan at 978-459-0101
and President Bush at (202) 456-1414 and leave the following message:

"I am a parent of a child with a disability (or an advocate, teacher, etc.)
and I urge you to remove the Sessions/Norwood discipline amendments from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Spread the word to parents, advocates and organizations in your state or congressional
district to generate as many constituent calls as possible into their offices.

If you need additional information,
you can visit the Federation for Children with Special Needs website.

or you can visit the COPAA website for more information on the IDEA
discipline amendments, to review the alert:

Please send letters to your Senators and Representatives regarding the
Norwood-Sessions amendments to the IDEA.

It is particularly important that you write letters if any of your
Congress people are members of the Conference Committee.  These
amendments would virtually gut the substance of the IDEA.

Please, take action now for all our kids - this is not just about

COPPA website also has sample letters posted :
Legislative Tracking System, you can check on the status of any new bills.