Legislative Advocacy in Adapted Physical Education and Recreation: The Reauthorization of IDEA

By Arnhold, Robert W.; Auxter, David | Palaestra, Spring 1995 | Go to article overview

Legislative Advocacy in Adapted Physical Education and Recreation: The Reauthorization of IDEA


Arnhold, Robert W., Auxter, David, Palaestra


In the upcoming restructuring of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it is important that physical education and therapeutic recreation maintain present status and serve as foundation for launching programs that facilitate national health promotion policies for healthful leisure physical activity. Attempts have been made in the past to develop collaborative arrangements between school-based health, physical education, recreation, and special education programs, with community-based recreation. Programs designed to promote health through physical activity of children with disabilities also involved cooperative arrangements with state departments of Physical Education and Special Education. However, these initiatives never fully developed because of the absence of federal funds. Projects that require the development of protocols for bringing the resources of schools and communities together in such a way that all people, including those with disabilities, are self-powered to promote their health through physically active leisure are of modest costs. The federal government may need to serve as a catalyst to facilitate such community collaboration that can be extensively generalized to many communities.

Legislative History

There has been one historical episode of a concerted grassroots effort by physical education and recreation professionals for federal legislation. This was orchestrated by Julian Stein who was with the American Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) for the Mental Retardation-Facilities Construction Act of 1969. This legislation provided for personnel preparation grants in physical education and recreation for people with disabilities. Subsequent federal legislation relied primarily on congressional lobbying activities without strong constituent efforts. This was the case with the passage of PL 94-142 (Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA)) and its subsequent reauthorizations. Heavy political activity resulted after passage of PL 94-142 with the federal agency (i.e., Bureau of Education of the Handicapped/Office of Special Education Programs) in development of regulations and acquisitions or resources for physical education and recreation within the federal agency. For the most part, institutional forces have carried federal programs for physical education and recreation for people with disabilities for many years. With emphasis on a questioning role of the federal government in education and congressional districts and the states, it may be well to develop an effective legislative organization to advocate for physical education and recreation for people with disabilities.

The Reauthorization Process of PL 94-142

Public Law 94-142 (EHA) is of vital importance for special education and is the core of education for students with disabilities. This law has nine sections, (A-1); Section B of EHA is the state grant program and is permanently funded. Although specific sections of Part B are permanently funded, several vital components, such as Due Process, the Individualized Education Program, and the Least Restrictive Environment may be compromised in the upcoming reauthorization hearings. Sections C-I must be reauthorized by Congress every three years (Russell, 1995). In fact, PL 94-142 has been successfully reauthorized three times with full support of both political parties.

The fourth reauthorization? Reauthorization of IDEA should have occurred by 1994; however, no bills were introduced. Hearings have been delayed because of the number of education bills now under consideration by Congress. Another key factor in the delay is that congressional committees with jurisdiction over IDEA also play an instrumental role in the health care reform debate (ARC, 1994). Reauthorization hearings have been extended and scheduled for the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 1995 with a bill due out by November of 1995 (Meeder, 1995).

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