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A Progress Report on Fulfilling America's Promise to Americans with Disabilities

Chapter 2. Expanding Educational Opportunities for Youth with Disabilities

Increasing Funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The President has delivered on his promise in the New Freedom Initiative to increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that eligible students with disabilities be provided a free appropriate public education.

Accomplishments

Next Steps

President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education

Executive Order 13227, issued on October 2, 2001, created the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education and charged the Commission with collecting information, studying issues related to Federal, state and local programs, and recommending policies for improving the educational performance of students with disabilities. The Commission, which was chaired by former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, held thirteen public hearings in cities nationwide and considered the views of hundreds of experts in the field of education, parents of children with disabilities, and individuals with disabilities themselves.

The Commission submitted its final report to the President on July 1, 2002. The report, entitled A New Era: Revitalizing Special Education for Children and Their Families, http://www.ed.gov/inits/commissionsboards/whspecialeducation/reports/index.html, presents the following broad recommendations:

  1. Focus on results -- not on process. While IDEA must retain the legal and procedural safeguards necessary to guarantee a “free appropriate public education” for children with disabilities, it will only fulfill its intended purpose by raising expectations for students and becoming more results-oriented, rather than driven by process, litigation, regulation, and confrontation.
  2. Embrace a model of prevention, not a model of failure. Reforms must move the system toward early identification and swift intervention, using scientifically based instruction and teaching methods. This will require changes in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools, as well as reforms in teacher preparation, recruitment, and support.
  3. Consider children with disabilities as general education children first. Special education should not be treated as a separate cost system, and evaluations of spending must be based on all child expenditures, including funds from general education. Funding arrangements should not create an incentive for special education identification or become an option for isolating children with learning and behavior problems. Flexibility in the use of all educational funds, including those provided through IDEA, is essential.

Improving Educational Opportunities for Youth with Disabilities

The Department of Education, sometimes in collaboration with other Federal agencies, funds numerous studies aimed at improving educational outcomes for individuals with disabilities. The New Freedom Initiative and the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education have shaped recent funding priorities, as the following notable projects demonstrate.

Accomplishments

Youth Transition

As the New Freedom Initiative results in better educational opportunities and outcomes for more people with disabilities, it is critical that efforts are undertaken to promote the successful transition of youth to post-secondary school, work, and other goals. The Administration supports this transition in a number of ways, including through programs that promote mentoring.

Accomplishments

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