House Passes Special-Education Reform; Bill Caps Number of Labeled Pupils

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

House Passes Special-Education Reform; Bill Caps Number of Labeled Pupils


Byline: George Archibald, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Sweeping reform of the federal special-education program passed the House yesterday, but two Republican efforts to allow taxpayer support for handicapped students in private schools were defeated.

By a vote of 251-171, the House passed a $125.9 billion, seven-year reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), with reforms to reduce paperwork and limit the practice of identifying children with reading and behavior problems as disabled.

Thirty-four Democrats joined 217 Republicans in passing the bill, with seven Republicans and 163 Democrats in opposition.

"Today we took a major step forward in the drive to reform education in America by passing this critical legislation that will strengthen our nation's education law for children with special needs," said Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

"The measure approved today provides powerful reforms requested for years by teachers, principals and local educators reforms that will help ensure that children with disabilities will not be left behind."

Over a seven-year period, the bill would authorize increased federal funding for special education from its current level of $8.9 billion for fiscal year 2003 to $25.2 billion in fiscal 2010.

But when federal funding reaches that level, an estimated 40 percent federal share, the bill would require states to limit their special-education programs to 13.5 percent of the total student population in any jurisdiction.

Currently, 17 states and 28 of the largest city and county school systems have more than 13.5 percent of their students in special-education classes. Critics say tens of thousands of children are "misidentified" as disabled only because they have reading and behavior problems that should be remedied in regular classrooms.

The House-passed bill "will reduce the number of students that are misidentified or overrepresented in special education a problem that particularly affects minority children," Mr. …

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