Posted on September 22, 2004
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), both members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, have been named Senate conferees to approve a five-year special education bill in cooperation with conferees from the House of Representatives. "The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 is must-pass legislation that carefully addresses the needs of those disabled children and the schools they attend," said Frist. "Moving forward with the legislative process this year will allow us to refocus federal law on outcomes for disabled children and ensure that states focus on academic results, not process, while still guaranteeing the rights of the child are protected." "My staff and I have worked closely with Tennessee teachers, school board members and parents as we crafted the special education bill in the Senate," Alexander said. "As a conferee, I will do my part to ensure the final bill will reflect their suggestions to make it the best piece of legislation for Tennessee and American families." As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee of Children and Families, Alexander co-sponsored the Senate bill, which included two provisions of importance to him. The Senate bill: · Clears up confusion over the definition of highly qualified teachers for middle and high school teachers. There are more than 6,000 middle and high school special education teachers in Tennessee that under No Child Left Behind are required to be "highly qualified" by 2005-2006. This legislation gives them another year to become highly qualified and says that they do not have to be highly qualified in all subjects, but must be highly qualified in special education. · 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. The conference committee's task will be to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill. It will then go to the President for his signature to become law.