Reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

This past year, APA members have actively supported improving IDEA, which seeks to promote educational opportunities for the nation's children with disabilities. APA members have testified before Congress and written recommendations regarding evaluation, reevaluation, and the role of related services providers. Many of these recommendations were incorporated into the Clinton Administration's bill. The House and Senate are currently drafting their own reauthorization bills for IDEA, and both versions draw in part from the Administration's reauthorization plan released in June 1995.

However, Republican lawmakers in the House may attach IDEA legislation to a block-grant proposal that would consolidate many education programs in an effort to gain leverage over opponents of the block-grant plan. The House Education and Economic Opportunities Committee will propose the consolidation of two bills, including IDEA, into one large education reorganization bill. Title I of this bill would be IDEA, and Title II would be the new "education reorganization" in the form of an education block grant. Although the Senate is not developing education block-grant language at this time, the possibility exists that the Senate would adopt the House legislation. The consolidation of the two bills could be damaging to the renewal of IDEA, which has previously enjoyed 20 years of bipartisan support.

APA members James E. Ysseldyke, PhD, and G. Reid Lyon, PhD, testified in May before the Disabilities Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources on assessment issues and research related to reading disabilities. More recently, APA member Joseph G. Rosenfeld, PhD, Professor and Director of the School Psychology Program at Temple University, testified before the Early Childhood, Youth and Families Subcommittee of the House Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities on seven specific areas, including assessment, individual education plans, and related services. APA Science and Education Directorates also collaborated with the Public Policy Office and Division 16 members to provide written testimony for the House on IDEA.

Of additional concern is whether the Senate and House Appropriations Committees will make deep cuts into IDEA discretionary programs. Both Committees have recommended funding IDEA mandatory spending programs at close to last year's level. However, the recommended funding levels submitted by the House and Senate appropriators for IDEA's 14 discretionary programs were markedly different. House appropriators recommended the consolidation of the 14 IDEA discretionary programs and proposed to cut approximately $153 million from the programs. This is in stark contrast to the more moderate cuts of $8.6 million recommended by Senate appropriators. Science Directorate staff will continue to monitor IDEA appropriations and changes to the legislation as it progresses.

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