Providing a world-class public education for all of our children is a contract between the government and the citizens of this country. I want to see that contract strengthened, not broken. I recognize the need to educate the “whole child.”But the bottom line is that when it comes time to graduate from high school, we must make sure that our students, all our students, have the skills to either pursue postsecondary education or training, or get a good job, and be contributing members of our communities. This means that educators and parents work as partners. This means schools have the resources, tools, and flexibility to do what we expect of them.
My message to you today is simple: this nation is facing an educational crisis in which 50 percent of our high school graduates are functionally illiterate and not prepared to enter the workplace. If we are going to maintain our economic standing as a nation we must do much better. We must make every effort to offer every child a quality education—those with disabilities, those without disabilities, and those at risk of failing.
We introduced this legislation so that everyone would have a common frame of reference. however, this legislation is not perfect and it can and will be improved. The bill and this hearing are the beginning of the process, not the end. There are still issues to be resolved. Your testimony will help us sort them out.
IDEA was originally enacted in 1975. I was a Member of the House then and participated in its development. It provided one set of ground rules that replaced a patchwork of over 25 court decisions that had generated considerable uncertainty about rights and responsibilities. After 22 years, I think it is appropriate to acknowledge that schools have changed, the range of disabilities seen in schools have changed, our expectations for children with disabilities have changed, and the expectations we place on each other as educators and parents have changed.
The writing is on the wall. I f we don’t make needed changed to IDEA now, based on common sense, school districts and parents will increasingly turn to the courts to get answers. School districts will do so in hope of getting relief from or clarification of their responsibilities. Parents will do so in hope of securing services that they believe their child needs. Since the genesis of IDEA lay in avoiding litigation, true to its intent to do so today, we have an opportunity through the reauthorization of IDEA to ensure the emphasis will shift once again and remain on educating children, well into the next century.
To those who say to us, “do nothing,” I say think again. Please work with us. To those who say “no good will come from a reauthorization and civil rights of children will be diminished,” I say not under my stewardship. To those who have the inclination to argue for alternative, divisive provisions, when consensus is at hand, I say you have lost focus, you have forgotten the children and their teachers. At this point, those of you who don’t trust us must talk with us. With communication comes understanding; with understanding comes respect; with respect comes partnership; through partnership comes solutions; and through solutions comes a shared commitment to educate all of America’s children to be their best.
More than 20 years ago president Ford signed into law P.L. 94-142. On that day, we lit a beacon of hope for millions of children with disabilities and their families. We exclaimed that the days of exclusion, segregation, and denial of educational opportunity of disabled children were over in this country. We made a promise that children with disabilities would receive the educational opportunities necessary to enable them to lead proud, productive lives in the American mainstream.
Over the past 20 years we have witnessed considerable progress. But, we also know our work is not over—we know we can and must achieve better educational outcomes for children with disabilities. We still have promises to keep.
Today, we start anew our journey toward enactment of a bill reauthorizing IDEA. I would like to take a few minutes to share with all of you the principles that will guide us as we embark on this journey.
First, our efforts must continue the long tradition of bipartisanship. Every effort should also be made to secure a broad-based consensus among all parties concerned with the implementation of the legislation.
Second, we must recognize what IDEA is and what it is not.
IDEA is a civil rights statute. it establishes the “floor of opportunity” guaranteed by the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution. IDEA includes a number of procedural safeguards and protections that are modeled on other civil rights statutes. The parity between IDEA and these other civil rights laws must be preserved.
According to the Congress and the CBO, IDEA is not an unfunded federal mandate. The IDEA is a grant program providing assistance to school districts to help them meet their constitutional obligations. We must increase our assistance to local school districts and ensure that the increases are not offset by reductions by states.
Third, any bill we enact must be consistent with and enhance the ability of local school districts to improve educational outcomes and achieve the National Educational Goals for children with disabilities.
Fourth, we must abide by the old maxim, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We must determine what, if any provision is “broke” on the basis of facts and sound educational policy; not on the basis of fear, pernicious mythologies, or political expediency. Under no circumstance should we legislate by anecdote.
If we conclude that something is “broke,” we must ensure that the “fix” comports with the nature and extent of the problem. We cannot adopt amendments that will have the effect of increasing the likelihood of exclusion, segregation, and denial of educational services of disabled children.
Fifth, we must foster meaningful partnerships between parents, disabled children, and educators; confrontation is in nobody’s interest.
Sixth, we must strengthen the federal role in personnel preparation, parent training and programs designed to ensure that services to children with disabilities remain state-of-the-art.
In closing, let me share with you the advice I received from the director of special education in my home state of Iowa on the approach we should take in reauthorizing IDEA: “While simple and cheap solutions to complex problems seem to be in vogue among some elements of our society, I would hope that the Committee would take a more thoughtful long-range view of the issues.”
I intend to follow this advice and I am confident that my colleagues will do the same. Thank you.
The purpose of this important project is to produce practical materials, developed by
families for fmailies, which will:
· Help families to form partnerhsips with their providers and to advocate for the health care needs of their child
· Prepare families to actively particiapte in health supervision and the promotion of healthy habits.
· Provide valuable information about child development and what to expect as a child matures to adolescence
· Share tips, hints, and stories based on the experiences of a variety of families
These family materials will be derived from Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, published in 1994 as a comprehensive resource to help health professionals, families, and communities more effectively promote the health and well-being of our nation’s children and adolescents.
As we develop these materials, we want to hear from you!! We’d love your input not only on how to make these materials beneficial, but on how to make them unique. Over the next few weeks, we will be including questions to solicit your ideas in shaping this fabulous resource. Please take a moment to answer the following questions, and then return this to NPND (Fax:703-836-1232; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you for your help. __________________________________________________________________________ 1. Describe your relationship to the children you care for.
Child Advocacy Professional
2. Where do you get ideas for promoting healthy developmentof your child? (Please circle all that apply)
Brochures or flyers in the pharmacy or doctor’s office
3. Is your child’s doctor your primary source of information about your child’s development? (e.g. temper tantrums, toilet training, school preparation, peer presure)
4. What other source(s) do you turn to? (Please circle all that apply)
If the BBA becomes a part of the Constitution, the impact on children and families will be disastrous— making it harder for the federal government to respond during times of high unemployment and recession; making it easier to cut programs for poor children and families, while making it harder to close tax loopholes for wealthy individuals and corporations; and making it more difficult for the federal government to invest in children through proven programs like Head Start, WIC and immunizations.
Please call and meet with local Representatives and Senators and their staff in order to convey your OPPOSITION to the Balanced Budget Amendment.
Thanks to the Children’s Defense Fund Legislative Update for this report.