Alexander, Frist Announce Passage Of IDEA Reauthorization Conference Report

Legislation Unites Parents, Teachers And Schools Around Special Education Students

Posted on November 17, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today announced the ratification of the conference report to accompany H.R. 1350, the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). House and Senate conferees passed the agreement today, clearing the way for final floor votes and President Bush's signature. "I'm pleased that the conferees approved the final conference report on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act," said Frist. "This legislation, crafted with the help of teachers, parents, and disability organizations, bridges politics to reach the shared goal of ensuring all children receive a quality education. Passage of this legislation is a high priority for this Congress, and will ensure that the special education needs of 6.5 million children, including more than 13 percent of Tennessee public school students, continue to be met." "IDEA is critical for the 6.5 million children with special needs across the country, 125,000 of which live in Tennessee," said Alexander from the U.S. Capitol after conference passage of the report. "My staff and I worked closely with Tennessee teachers, school board members and parents as we worked on this bill, which reflects their suggestions making this a better piece of legislation." The conference report agreed to today protects the educational rights of children with disabilities while making the law work for parents, teachers, administrators and school districts by: · Ensuring states focus on improved academic results, clarifying methods for measuring student progress and providing for a national study of assessment systems; · Creating a 15-state paperwork demonstration program, streamlining state and local requirements, simplifying contractual paperwork, establishing consistency in regulations and requiring further review of paperwork simplification possibilities by the Department of Education; · Giving alternate dispute resolution, strengthening mediation processes, requiring direct communication when complaints are filed, encouraging prompt resolution, and improving the integrity of the conflict resolution process; · Providing historic increases to the states to help with the extra costs of serving students with special needsthe FY 2005 budget assumes $8.7 billion more annually or an increase of 376 percent since 1996. Alexander, chairman of the Subcommittee on Children and Families, worked to ensure the bill included two specific provisions: · Establishes new ways for two types of special education teachers to become highly qualified. This applies to special education teachers who teach multiple subjects and special education teachers who teach students taking alternative assessment. · Gives parents of young disabled children the option of keeping the child in their natural environment or enrolling them in a half-day preschool program. This creates a seamless early childhood experience for young children who need special education and gives parents more choices in their child's care.