Wednesday, August 6, 2008

McCain vs Obama on Special Education - Dear Candidate

We announced recently that we would be sending the presumptive nominees of the two major political parties for President some questions on special education law. We feel strongly that the two have said very little about special education, and we feel that there is a need for our readers to have some information. Thanks to all who have made suggestions.

We will be sending and email to the candidates web addresses that will include the following content after a brief explanation as to who we are:

Dear Candidate: ...

Please provide your answers regarding these questions pertaining to special education as well as any other positions on special education that you have. We will share all relevant answers we receive with our readers:

1. Please state your position regarding "full" funding of the individuals with Disabilities Education Act, "IDEA." School districts were originally promised federal funds in the amount of 40% of special ed costs when the predecessor to IDEA passed. IDEA funding is now less than 17%. Many people involved in education feel that it is the largest unfunded mandate. If you are elected, at what level will your first recommended budget fund special education? Please explain how you will pay for any increases in funding.

2. What is you position concerning the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, "NCLB" and IDEA.

3. What is you position concerning the reauthorization of IDEA.

4. In 1982, the U. S. Supreme Court decided the case of Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Bd. of Ed. v. Rowley 455 U.S. 175, 102 S.Ct. 3034, 553 IDELR 656 (1982). In that seminal case, the high court set the standard for the majority of special education cases by defining what a school district must do in order to provide a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE). Would you as President seek any changes in the Rowley standard?

5. Would you as President seek any legislative changes to reverse or modify the decisions by the Supreme Court in recent cases, including Schaffer v. Weast 546 U.S. 49, 126 S.Ct. 528, 44 IDELR 150 (2005); Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist Bd. of Educ v. Murphy 548 U.S. 291, 126 S.Ct. 2455, 45 IDELR 267 (6/16/06); or Winkelman by Winkelman v. Parma City Sch. Dist 550 U.S.____, 127 S.Ct 1994, 47 IDELR 281 (5/21/2007) .

6. Would you support any changes in the provisions regarding the awarding of attorney's fees in special education cases?

7. In general, would you likely support the positions of parents or school districts in cases alleging a violation of the special education laws?

8. What are your feelings about the Response to Intervention evaluation process? Should it be expanded beyond eligibility for specific learning disabilities?

9. Concerning NCLB, what are your thoughts concerning the principles of accountability and school sanctions. Would you propose any changes to the exceptions for students with severe cognitive disabilities or other students with disabilities for purposes of assessment?

10. What should be the role of the Office of Special Education of the federal Department of Education in interpreting and in enforcing the special education laws?

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