Pelosi Statement on 30th Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:
"Thirty years ago today, a solemn pact was made between the federal government and the American people: never again should children with disabilities be denied the educational services they need and deserve. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandated a free and appropriate public education for all children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment,and remains one of the most significant milestones in the rights of Americans with disabilities.
"Every child has the right to a public education. Every student with a disability has the right to accessible accommodations, qualified teachers, and a sound curriculum. For much of our nation's history, however, children with disabilities were deprived of these fundamental rights. At the time of IDEA's enactment, 1 million children with disabilities were excluded entirely from public education, and more than half of the 8 million children with disabilities did not receive the education that would enable them to have full equality of opportunity. Thirty years later, IDEA has permitted students with disabilities to define themselves in terms of their own accomplishments, rather than society's stereotypes. It has played a vital role in transforming society's attitudes toward individuals with disabilities, and has advanced our nation's fundamental calling to respect each individual.
"However, as we celebrate this milestone, we must also acknowledge that the promise of IDEA has not been met. Early intervention and up-to-date information for parents; teacher training and recruitment; and student accommodations and supports are all pressing needs that demand our continued commitment and additional resources. However, Congress continues to fund, and the Bush Administration continues to request, far less than IDEA's authorized level of 40 percent of costs associated with special education. As a central goal of our Strengthening Our Schools' initiative, Democrats are committed to fully funding IDEA, and expanding opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
"IDEA has brought our nation closer to the ideals of equality and opportunity that are both our hope and future. IDEA is a permanent part of a just and equitable society; our commitment to it must never waver. Our nation on this day renews its commitment, and expresses appreciation to special education teachers, allied professionals and support providers, parents, and students with disabilities who are dedicated to the advancement of all."