Trump administration considers IDEA revision

Trump administration considers IDEA revision

(District of Columbia) Last month, the Trump administration sparked controversy by proposing to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics, now Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to begin an overhaul of the nation’s primary law governing the education of students with disabilities.

Originally signed into law by former President Gerald Ford in 1975 under a different name, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, directs services to some 6.5 million eligible students from infancy through early adulthood.

The last time that IDEA was reauthorized was in 2004, although parts of the law were amended in 2015 to correspond with the Every Student Succeeds Act.

In a notice published last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced plans to conduct surveys beginning this fall in an effort to better understand “how states, districts, and schools are implementing IDEA.”

The findings from the surveys, the department said, would help inform Congress, the administration and other stakeholders in advance of the next reauthorization of IDEA.

“This study of IDEA is necessary because a decade has passed since the previous IDEA national implementation study, and subsequent developments may have influenced the context and implementation of special education and early intervention,” according to the department’s notice in the Federal Register.

Although the law requires states and local school districts to provide access to a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities, the federal government has traditionally only provided about 10 percent of the estimated costs associated with special education. States provide about 40 percent, with local districts funding the remaining costs.

The budget plan released earlier this year by President Donald Trump would have reduced the federal share even further by cutting a variety of programs—including an $18 million contribution to the Special Olympics.

After a public outcry, the president later rescinded the cut to the world games but advocates for special education remain wary about Trump’s commitment to students with disabilities. Already, DeVos faces bipartisan criticism for rescinding rules aimed at keeping black students from being disproportionately suspended and placed into special education.

Some in Congress are worried about a Trump-led effort to reauthorize IDEA.

At this point, however, all DeVos wants to do is conduct three surveys—one directed at the states, one at districts and the third at schools.

As proposed, all 50 states will be expected to participate along with the District of Columbia, the eight U.S. territories, the Bureau of Indian Education and the Department of Defense’s education unit.

At the district level, the department will administrate the survey to develop a sample of 665 school districts. And for schools, the department wants 2,750 school sites to respond that are part of the district pool.

The work is expected to begin this fall, although there is no word from Congressional leaders when they might consider reauthorization.

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