Education Legislative Agenda for the 112th Congress (2011-2012)

Public education for all is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is the mechanism by which this nation prepares all students to pursue the benefits of freedom and to exercise fully their rights and responsibilities as citizens. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that children with disabilities not only have the right to attend public schools but have access to the general education curriculum and meaningful educational experiences. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), must ensure that all children have access to a high quality education and continue to align special education and general education laws. Students with disabilities must be held to the same high expectations as their non-disabled peers and their academic progress accurately measured and reported. Students with disabilities face multiple attitudinal, environmental, financial, and support barriers in accessing postsecondary education. During a student’s education there will be several major transitions, such as moving from early intervention to preschool, from elementary to secondary education, and ultimately, from the school system to adult living, including employment and/or higher education. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) offers an opportunity for students with intellectual disabilities to overcome some of those barriers and have access to a postsecondary education that was until recently unavailable. 

 
The 112th Congress must:
 

IDEA

 
  • Fully fund all components of IDEA and provide a significant infusion of funds into Part C, Head Start, and other early intervention programs;

  • Amend IDEA’s due process provision to place the burden of proof on school systems rather than parents;

  • Amend IDEA to allow courts to award fees for expert witnesses who are not attorneys;

  • Provide oversight to ensure that the major components of IDEA, such as least restrictive environment (LRE), due process, transition, and individualized education programs (IEPs) are properly and fully implemented;
 

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (as amended by No Child Left Behind)

 
  • Reauthorize ESEA and continue to align IDEA to ensure a meaningful education through access to the general education curriculum, related services, and programs such as health and physical education;

  • Ensure appropriate assessments for all students with disabilities by developing a variety of universally designed assessments that accurately measure the progress of students with disabilities;

  • Adopt and use a consistent method to calculate and report graduation rates that accurately accounts for the academic achievement of all students, with data broken down by types of disabilities;

  • Adopt new policies to significantly reduce the unacceptably high dropout rate of students with disabilities;

  • Support training and research initiatives to enhance effective transition services from secondary education to postsecondary and employment;

  • Enhance adult education, vocational training, post-secondary education, and lifelong learning opportunities for students with disabilities, particularly students with intellectual and/or multiple impairments;

  • Ensure that initiatives such as charter schools, vouchers, and individual education savings accounts do not adversely affect public education; the access of students with disabilities, especially those categorized as having intellectual disabilities (who historically have extremely low rates of inclusion in these initiatives), to inclusive educational settings; or the guarantee of a free, appropriate public education for all students with disabilities;

  •  Require any federal funds used to construct and renovate schools enable such schools to become fully accessible;

  • Enact protections, including sanctions, against abuse, aversive interventions, and the inappropriate use of physical, mechanical, and chemical restraints and seclusion for all students in schools.
 

Early Intervention and Preschool Programs

 
  • Increase funding for early intervention and preschool programs;

  • Ensure adequate funds are allocated to conduct research and the development of evidence-based practices from early intervention through postsecondary education to support learning of students with disabilities.
 

Higher Education

 
  • Fully fund current and new disability provisions in Title VII of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, including the Model Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs and Coordinating Center, National Technical Assistance Centers, and Programs to Provide Students with Disabilities with a Quality Higher Education;

  • Ensure students with intellectual disabilities enrolled in Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs have access to work study program and Pell grants.
 

Personnel

 
  • Expand and improve in-service and pre-service personnel preparation under Part D of IDEA, NCLB, and the Higher Education Act so that all special education teachers can meet the new “highly qualified” standard and to develop programs to expand the pool of undergraduates majoring in special education.

Legislative Agenda Partners

We are national organizations that serve and advocate for people with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities. We work together to shape, expand, and protect a strong federal role that provides vital benefits, services and supports and assures civil rights for our constituency.