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NEA Sets Priorities for IDEA Reauthorization

Measure awaits action by full Senate

NEA's Reauthorization Priorities

As reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) works its way through Congress, NEA is working with U.S. Representatives, Senators, their staffs, and other advocacy groups to improve this landmark federal legislation.

Certain provisions of the increasingly problematic Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) have complicated the IDEA reauthorization process. ESEA, also known as the "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) Act, imposes a variety of federal requirements that overlap or otherwise affect IDEA rules and regulations.

The House of Representatives has completed its version of the reauthorization bill (H.R. 1350). The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has reported out the Senate version, S. 1248, but it now awaits scheduling for debate and action on the Senate floor. NEA and others are urging action before Congress adjourns for the year, probably in late November.

NEA is encouraging all of its members and others concerned with this issue to urge their U.S. senators to support moving S. 1248 to the floor for action.

The House bill contains some real improvements, but it has serious shortcomings, as well. A number of those shortcomings are improved upon in the Senate version. Among the more important improvements is a modified definition of a "highly qualified" special education teacher that takes into account some of NEA's proposals.

NEA has long supported IDEA. It is a civil rights law by nature that has opened access to more than six million children who otherwise might not receive the support programs and services they need to be successful. It continues to hold great promise for millions more.

In addition to being a civil rights issue, IDEA is an education policy issue because it regulates the delivery of special education services. Given that IDEA has just begun to show its impact, NEA is suggesting few statutory changes during the current reauthorization process. We view reauthorization mainly as an opportunity to improve implementation.