Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Interview with Top Federal Education Official - What Would You Ask?

I just requested an interview with Education Secretary Duncan or one of his assistant secretaries. What do you think - will I get an interview?

I suspect that it is a long shot. Although I'm very pleased that this blog has a rapidly growing number of subscribers and readers, it is still a relatively small fish in the large world of the news media.

But let's dream for a minute here. (I'm a Chicago Cubs fan, I have to be optimistic!) Suppose that I do get the interview, I have a good idea of many of the questions I would ask. A partial list of questions is at the end of this post, but I need your help. What would you ask the top brass at the federal Department of Education if you had a chance? Please let me know what questions you would like to have answered. If I am lucky enough to get an interview, I will include some of your questions during the interview.

Here are the questions on the top of my mind:
1. What changes are you likely to propose or support when IDEA is reauthorized.

2. 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). The standard is that an IEP must provide some meaningful educational benefit. Should the Rowley standard be changed?

3. Will you propose or support 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)(burden of persuasion on party challenging IEP); Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist Bd. of Educ v. Murphy 548 U.S. 291, 126 S.Ct. 2455, 45 IDELR 267 (6/16/06)(expert witness fess not available to prevailing party in IDEA hearing); or Winkelman by Winkelman v. Parma City Sch. Dist 550 U.S.____, 127 S.Ct 1994, 47 IDELR 281 (5/21/2007) (Parents may proceed without attorney in federal court on IDEA appeal).

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

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

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

7. 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?


  1. I'd ask if the department has plans to address the issues of restraint and seclusion of special ed students throughout the country. I'd like to know if he thinks the special ed system is working. I'd ask a follow-up about whether it's working for parents who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. And I'd like to know if he plans to increase enforcement of SPED law, and if so, how? Finally, I'd like to know what he thinks the administration and current congress will do with regard to full funding of IDEA. The stimulus was a start, but a partial and temporary one, and Obama's campaign promise said "full funding." I'm sure I could come up with more if you wanted... ;)

  2. I would ask if he would support changing the eligibility criteria for services under the IDEA to include learning problems resulting primarily from environmental or economic disadvantage.

  3. I'd ask if he would support a change in the IDEA to clarify or provide more detail on ESY. It leaves to many interpretations to the states and varies too widely.

  4. Thanks Jonathan,

    Interesting point.


  5. Thanks Nanette,

    The extended school year rules do vary quite a bit.


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