Individuals with Disabilities Ed Act Reauthorization: Where Do We Really Stand?

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July 5, 2002

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Publication date: July 5, 2002 
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The views contained in the report do not necessarily represent those of the Administration as this and all NCD documents are not subject to the A-19 Executive Branch review process.

National Council on Disability Members and Staff

Marca Bristo, Chairperson
Kate Pew Wolters, First Vice Chairperson
Hughey Walker, Second Vice Chairperson
Yerker Andersson, Ph.D.
Dave N. Brown
John D. Kemp
Audrey McCrimon
Gina McDonald
Bonnie O'Day, Ph.D.
Lilliam Rangel-Diaz
Debra Robinson
Ela Yazzie-King

Ethel D. Briggs, Executive Director
Jeffrey T. Rosen, General Counsel and Director of Policy
Mark S. Quigley, Director of Communications
Allan W. Holland, Chief Financial Officer
Martin Gould, Ed.D., Director of Research
Gerrie Drake Hawkins, Ph.D., Program Specialist
Pamela O'Leary, Interpreter
Brenda Bratton, Executive Assistant
Stacey S. Brown, Staff Assistant
Carla Nelson, Office Automation Clerk
Joan M. Durocher, Esq., Fellow


The National Council on Disability wishes to express its appreciation to Celane McWhorter, NCD consultant, for her help in drafting this document.

"The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are cornerstones of the empowerment culture. They empower all Americans to participate, to produce. ADA and IDEA and other disability rights laws must not be weakened. They must be vigorously implemented."

 --Justin Dart
   National Council on Disability
   National Summit on Disability Policy
   April 27, 1996
   Achieving Independence




Summary Statement

Monitoring and Enforcement 

NCD Recommendations for IDEA Reauthorization

Part 1: Where Do We Really Stand? Youth Speak Out

Part 2: Where Do We Really Stand? From the Public

    Issue 1: Monitoring and Enforcement 
    Issue 2. Funding 
    Issue 3. Discipline 
    Issue 4. Eligibility and Overrepresentation of Ethnic, Cultural and Racial Minorities 
        in Special Education 
    General Public Recommendations

List of Commenters

    Mission of the National Council on Disability


The National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency making recommendations to the President and Congress on issues affecting 54 million Americans with disabilities. NCD is composed of 15 members appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. NCD's overall purpose is to promote policies, programs, practices, and procedures that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability; and to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society. NCD makes recommendations to the President, Congress, and federal agency officials concerning ways to better promote equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities. In addition to our statutory mandates, NCD's mission is to provide a voice in the Federal Government and to Congress for all people with disabilities in the development of policies and delivery of programs that affect their lives.

In keeping with that mission, on February 11, 2002, NCD published a working document on the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The paper, IDEA Reauthorization: A Working Paper, identified four areas that NCD determined to be particularly critical to the implementation of IDEA: eligibility and over representation of racial and ethnic minorities; funding of IDEA; monitoring and enforcement; and discipline. NCD poses a number of questions for each of these areas. The selection of these four areas and the accompanying questions were based on the review of eleven years of NCD publications on the implementation of the Act and barriers to full implementation buried within policy and practice relative to each.

We then set out to find answers. In preparing this paper, NCD reviewed public proceedings over the past two years, including hearings held by the White House Commission on Excellence in Special Education, Committees and Subcommittees in the House of Representatives and Senate, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, along with publications from the National Academy of Science, the Harvard Civil Rights Law Project, and the General Accounting Office. NCD invited the public to respond to the questions in a public comment period announced in the Federal Registeron April 3, 2002. And, finally, we invited the real consumers, youth with disabilities, through the NCD Youth Advisory Council to tell us about their experiences in special education.

Where Do We Really Stand? is a compilation of the public statements--excerpts that are particularly relevant to the NCD issues and provide guidance in answering the questions. It begins with the youth comments, because that is where we should begin in any discussion of special education . . . what can they tell us about their experiences with IDEA?

A few disclaimers are necessary. Public comments are organized around the 21 questions found in the four critical areas. Thousands of pages of print were reviewed in search of recommendations relevant to the NCD questions. The paper excerpts statements from students, parents, advocates, school administrators, teachers, university personnel, and others. Most of the statements have been shortened; the substance has been honored although words may have been rearranged to more readily fit into the document. The intent was to survey what the public has been telling the Federal Government about IDEA, about what changes are necessary after twenty-seven years, and about provisions that are "sacred." While many of these statements are scientifically based, this is not to be considered more than a compilation and analysis of excerpts of individual statements expressed in a number of public venues. Some of the contributors' last names have been omitted to protect their anonymity.

Two things are obvious in the survey of the public opinion. First, it is clear from the volumes of work that IDEA has a wide following in this country. Second, there is controversy among the followers--a deep chasm of opinion on a number of issues particularly relevant to the quality of educational outcomes for students with disabilities. From the students, we hear the reality of their lives in special education. In most cases, the comments we received from them are a scathing indictment of the implementation of IDEA.

NCD has attempted to capture the trends found in the material, summarize what we found, and recommend solutions based on a combination of our work since 1991 and statements that particularly resonated with the members of NCD. We hope that others will be able to use this document to do the same. A list of individuals referenced in this document is found in the Appendix. The document is certainly not all-inclusive of public comments made during the past two years, but we believe it is very representative of the messages delivered.

Finally, more public statements are being made every day as the President's Commission Report is being released and Congress is making plans for rapid action on the reauthorization. We will update the web version of this document, to ensure that it truly reflects public opinion. We hope that Where Do We Really Stand? will be useful to a broad audience of groups and individuals who are working on behalf of students with disabilities and their families to strengthen the implementation of the IDEA.