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Letter on IDEA Reauthorization Bill Sent to Each Member of Congress


November 19, 2004



On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 2.7 million members, we would like to offer our support for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (H.R. 1350). We believe this legislation includes a number of positive provisions that will help students with disabilities and the educators who serve them, and we urge its passage. Votes associated with this legislation may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 108th Congress.



From the start of this reauthorization process, NEA members have expressed their hope that federal IDEA law could be re-focused on improved learning and services for students, rather than its current focus on paperwork and process. We are delighted that this bill focuses significantly on increasing professional development for educators and reducing the extreme paperwork burdens that keep educators from doing what they love — helping students be all they can be.

We are particularly pleased with provisions that enhance the focus on professional development, early intervention, and paperwork reduction, and with the balanced approach to simplifying IDEA's discipline provisions. We are also impressed with the bill's attempt to improve the partnership between parents, educators, and schools, and to reduce the potential for acrimonious litigation.

While we appreciate the added flexibility this bill offers to teachers in meeting the definition of a "highly qualified" special education teacher , we do remain concerned that the bill's approach will not alleviate the burdens placed on special education teachers, particularly in some states. We look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education as these provisions are implemented, and hope that states will proceed with approaches that help attract and retain teachers in the special education field, rather than exacerbate current shortages.

In addition, we are disappointed that the federal government continues to fall far short of its commitment to full IDEA funding. We will continue to fight hard for these essential and long overdue resources, and we hope that you will support those efforts in this and future appropriations cycles.

Given the overall positive impact for students with disabilities and special education professionals, we urge Congress to pass this important legislation. NEA applauds the commitment on the part of Members and staff to a bipartisan legislative process. We believe this process has resulted in a positive bill that will make a real difference for special education. We will do our part in ensuring that the law's potential will be harnessed for the benefit of all students with disabilities and their families.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Policy and Politics