CEC Policy Update - Taking Action!
Following are some of the major issues that CEC's Public Policy Unit is concentrating on, along with talking points to support these positions.
IDEA and General Education Funding
BACKGROUND - The full House and Senate approved a $1.87 trillion FY 2001 budget resolution on Thursday, April 13. In the House, the conference report was passed by a largely party line vote of 220-208; the Senate followed suit with a vote of 50-48. The resolution includes a total of $600.3 billion for discretionary programs; $310.8 billion of that will fund defense programs and $289.5 billion for non-defense programs, including education.
The report included a $2.2 billion increase for Function 500 programs, which is the portion that includes education and related programs. Of that amount, $2 billion has been targeted for IDEA programs, leaving a net increase of $200 million for all other elementary and secondary education programs, and no new funding for higher education and Head Start.
Although the budget resolution is a non-binding document, it provides congressional appropriations committees with an idea of what Congress' funding priorities are. The next step is for the House to introduce and mark up 13 appropriations bills, to include such areas as agriculture; defense; and labor, health and human services, and education. The House has indicated that it will take up the first six of those bills when it returns from recess, and that the Labor, HHS, and Education bill will be the last to be marked up. House leadership has also agreed not to exceed the spending allocations established in the budget resolution, with the exception of the Labor, HHS bill, which could receive "reasonable adjustments." The mark up for the Labor, HHS funding bill is scheduled for May 10.
There has been a wave of support for appropriating additional funding for IDEA in both the House and Senate. While the Senate Budget Committee was working on its FY 2001 budget resolution, Sens. Jeffords (R-VT) and Dodd (D-CT) offered an amendment that would have provided an additional $2 billion for Part B of IDEA in FY 2001, and $31 billion over the next five years. The money would come from a reduction in the proposed tax cut. Unfortunately, a second-degree amendment (which did not actually authorize any new funds for IDEA) offered by Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) also passed which replaced the Jeffords amendment. The Voinovich amendment offers a non-binding "sense of the Senate" resolution to make increasing funding for IDEA a priority. Fortunately, the House had requested and passed $2 billion in additional funding, and the House numbers were ultimately adopted in the final resolution.
Other supporters of fully funding IDEA include Rep. Bill Goodling (R-PA), who recently introduced H.R. 4055, the "IDEA Full Funding Act of 2000."
The bill would authorize enough additional Part B money for the next 10 years to reach the 40 percent mark by 2010. In the bill, Goodling acknowledges that although the federal government committed to contributing up to 40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure to educate children with disabilities, that figure has never exceeded 13 percent of states' costs.
The legislation would authorize $7 billion for Part B in FY 2001, and an additional $2 billion every year after that for the next 10 years, for a total of $25 billion in FY 2010.
H.R. 4055 is identical to another bill that was introduced in late January by Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-CA). Martinez' bill, H.R. 3545, authorized the full funding of Part B of IDEA by FY 2010; however, his bill would also have exponentially increased funding for other programs under IDEA, including a final amount of $850 million for both Section 619 and Part C in FY 2010; and varying amounts for the Part D support programs.
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed Goodling's bill by a unanimous vote.
Although CEC deeply appreciates ongoing congressional efforts to increase special education funding, and urges the Congress to continue to work toward the 40 percent goal, language has always been in place that authorizes appropriators to provide 40 percent of the excess costs of educating students with disabilities. It should also be noted that CEC does not support diverting funds from other federal education programs in order to meet the 40 percent goal. Because one of the main precepts of IDEA '97 is increased involvement in the general education curriculum, any cuts to the current funding level for PreK-12 programs could only impact students negatively, including those with disabilities. Therefore, CEC recommends both a 15 percent increase in general education programs, as well as a $6.99 billion appropriation that will move us towards the congressional promise to fully fund Part B of IDEA.
In addition to requesting increases for Part B, both the Preschool Grants (Section 619) and the Early Intervention Program (Part C) are much in need of additional funding as well. The Preschool Grants Program, which serves children ages 3 to 5 who have a disability, has had virtually no increase in funding for several years, even though the number of children served by the program has continued to increase. CEC is requesting an additional $126 million for Section 619 in FY 2001, for a total of $516 million.
Even though research has continually shown the importance of the earliest possible intervention for infants who are developmentally delayed or at risk of becoming so, Congress has fallen far short of appropriately funding the Part C Program. In FY 2001, CEC is recommending $405 million for this vital program, $15 million more than was appropriated last year.
Support Programs. CEC also recommends increased appropriation levels for IDEA's Part D Support Programs. The research and demonstration programs under IDEA provide the support to ensure effective and efficient practices within IDEA, Parts B, Section 619 and C. The Part D support programs provide a way to study solutions to many of the issues that have been identified, to ensure their validity before making them widespread practice, and to proactively address emerging issues. The Part D programs have provided the critical infrastructure in such areas as research, professional preparation, technical assistance, parent training, technology and support, and dissemination of information that make an effective early intervention and special education program a reality for each child. The support programs have seen virtually no increase in recent years.
CEC believes that the Part D programs should receive a total annual appropriation based upon a percentage derived from the overall annual appropriation for IDEA. Although the private industry standard for research and demonstration activities is currently 10%, we have recommended a total figure for the Part D support programs at 6%. Then, we calculated the distribution by program within Part D based upon the relative allocation to each support program under the current appropriation distribution.
Fairness and Accuracy in Student Testing Amendment to ESEA
BACKGROUND - Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, State and local school districts may require students to take and pass basic skills tests before graduating or are promoted to the next grade. Senator Paul Wellstone (MN) and Representative Bobby Scott (VA) will be offering amendments to ESEA that will prohibit state and local school districts that receive ESEA funds from relying solely on any one standardized test in making decisions about graduation, promotion, and ability grouping of students.
The amendment is entitled "Fairness and Accuracy in Student Testing." Senator Wellstone's amendment is S. 2348, and Representative Scott's amendment is H.R. 4333. Both amendments are identical. Among other things, the amendment requires that state and local school districts only use tests that meet professional standards of reliability and validity for the purposes in which the test's results are being used; use multiple measures of student achievement, including grades and evaluations by teachers; provide students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency in the subject matter covered by the test; and provide appropriate accommodations and alternative assessments for students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency.
This amendment is particularly relevant to children with disabilities in that it aligns ESEA's assessment requirements with the requirements of IDEA in a manner that ensures that students with disabilities receive fair and accurate assessments of student progress. For example, students with disabilities often do not perform to their full potential on standardized tests of student achievement because of the nature of their disability and its effect on their test-taking skills. As such, appropriate accommodations must be made for students with disabilities so that they can demonstrate what they know. Appropriate accommodations can include giving a student with a disability more time to take the test, providing both written and oral directions and/or prompts for test items, allowing verbal responses to test items, or enlarging print. In addition, some students with severe cognitive disabilities may require alternative assessments that more appropriately measure their functional skills development.
Finally, teachers and other school personnel often are in the best position to assess a student's academic achievement. As such, their input must be taken fully into consideration as part of an overall comprehensive assessment of student performance.
TALKING POINTS - Here are some talking points that you can use with your Member of Congress regarding fairness in testing for students with disabilities and other special needs:
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
BACKGROUND - The federal government only provides approximately 7% of total expenditures for elementary and secondary education, most of which is provided for under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.
States are not obligated to accept federal funds provided under ESEA. However, if they do accept federal funds, the federal government has required targeting of these funds to serve disadvantaged children who are at-risk of academic failure or who have other special needs. According to a 1998 report issued by the General Accounting Office, federal education funding formulas provided an additional $4.73 for each dollar spent on educating children living in poverty. In contrast, states only provided an additional 62 cents for each dollar spent on educating children living in poverty.
As we've reported over the past several Policy Updates, the reauthorization of ESEA is underway in Congress. Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are considering legislation that would consolidate many of the programs funded under ESEA. For example, the "Straight A's" program (H.R. 2300) currently under consideration in Congress block grants limited federal education resources to be used for priorities established by governors and state legislatures and eliminates many of the accountability provisions included under current law, which target the use of limited federal funds on specific student populations and programs. For example, some ESEA funds are currently used to maintain smaller classes where every child can receive individual attention, and for building safe, modern schools.
Without appropriate accountability mechanisms, there is no guarantee that states will opt to use ESEA funds provided under the "Straight A's" program for many of the personnel preparation programs and other targeted education programs designed to help disadvantaged children achieve high educational standards. For example, the continuance of personnel preparation programs designed to provide preservice and inservice training for early childhood educators would be left up to state policymakers to decide whether they should continue and, if so, how they should be funded and what professional training should be provided. Other direct service programs and personnel training activities would also be subject to the priorities established by governors and state legislatures. The House Education and the Workforce Committee rejected an amendment to allow states to use ESEA Title VI education grant funds for K-12 tuition vouchers. The vote came after extensive debate on the Education OPTIONS bill, H.R. 4141, which is the last of the four House ESEA bills (the others are H.R. 1995, the Teacher Empowerment Act; H.R. 2, the Student Results Act; and H.R. 2300, the Academic Achievement for All Act, or Straight A's).
As passed in committee, H.R. 4141, along with the other ESEA bills, would turn virtually all ESEA programs into block grants, with no guarantee of services for our neediest children. The House is expected to take up the ESEA reauthorization in the beginning of May.
The Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 1999
BACKGROUND - As you know, CEC has been actively involved in the reauthorization of the "Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 1988" which is authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). Presently, both the House and Senate have introduced legislation to reauthorize ESEA. Additionally, both the House and Senate have introduced legislation that provides federal funding to states for programs to educate students with gifts and talents, entitled the "Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 1999" (S. 505 and H.R. 637). Language from each of these bills has been incorporated into the ESEA reauthorization.
Both S. 505 and H.R. 637 provide state block grants for use by local education agencies (LEAs) to provide professional development, direct services and materials to students, technological approaches to providing for learning needs of gifted students, and technical assistance to LEAs. The Senate bill also provides a small amount (2 percent) for families to have access to research and information as well. Such knowledge is critical if families are to be partners with their local schools in designing and implementing gifted and talented programs.
The purpose of the Javits Act is to build the nation's capacity to meet the unique education needs of gifted and talented students in elementary and secondary schools. The program focuses on students who may not be identified and served through traditional assessment methods, including economically disadvantaged individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and individuals with disabilities. The "Javits Act" provides grants for demonstration projects and a national research center. The demonstration projects are for personnel training; encouraging the development of rich and challenging curricula for all students; and supplementing and making more effective the expenditure of state and local funds on gifted and talented education. The National Center for Research and Development in the Education of the Gifted and Talented Children and Youth conducts research on methods of identifying and teaching gifted and talented students, and undertakes program evaluation, surveys, and the collection, analysis, and development of information about gifted and talented programs.
During the 1994 reauthorization of the Act, the purposes of the program were expanded, while the authorization level was cut from $20 million to $10 million for FY 1995. Since 1992, the appropriation for this program has deflated from $9.7 million to $6.5 million. The Clinton Administration's request has fallen from $10 million in 1995 to $7.5 million for 2001. The $7.5 million request for FY 2001 is unacceptable, and demonstrates disregard for under served populations of gifted and talented children by an administration that claims to be concerned about equity and educational opportunity for all.
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