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Recognizing 30th Anniversary of Enactment of Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, let me thank the gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Castle) who has worked on IDEA issues for a long time; thank him for bringing this resolution to the floor today, he and Ranking Member WOOLSEY from California, who have brought this resolution honoring the 30 years since the passage of the first IDEA bill.

For far too long in our history, we treated people with disabilities as outside of the mainstream of American society. The opportunity to serve those children prior to the passage of IDEA in 1975 was often haphazard. Certainly there was not any organization to it, and many times these children were not in any school whatsoever. And I think passage of IDEA clearly has sent a clear signal to all parents of disabled children, all schools, that we believe that all children can learn.

Just last year, we reauthorized the IDEA law. That, along with the work that we did with No Child Left Behind, I think, presents a new paradigm for special needs children. For far too long we judged the accountability for educating those children by how many T's we could cross and how many I's we could dot. Mountains of paperwork, but no focus on the results that we were getting for those children.

Today, under No Child Left Behind and under the new IDEA law, the paradigm has shifted to one of let us measure the results that we are getting for all children, including those with special needs; and I think what we are beginning to see are improved results. Because while they may not learn at the same rate and while they may not attain the same levels, these children can learn just like all other children. So 30 years of good work, I think, is something that we should be proud of; and I appreciate the opportunity to take time and to remember how far we have come over these last 30 years.

In 1975, when Congress passed IDEA, they made a commitment, a commitment that said that we would pay up to 40 percent of the cost of educating special needs children. Over the years, the education community and others believed that the law said that we would spend 40 percent to educate special needs children. But I will remind you what the original law says and what it says today is that we will spend up to 40 percent and try to reach that.

It is really interesting that, from 1975 until the mid-1990s, Congress paid little attention to the commitment that they gave to those parents of special needs children and to educators who were obliged to follow the law, and it really has only been over the last 10 or 12 years that we have made a real commitment to funding the needs of these children.

If you go back to 1995, Congress at that time was spending $2.3 billion annually for the education of special needs children. Today, that has grown to $10.6 billion, a 360 percent increase over these last 10 years. While we have not reached the goal of getting up to 40 percent of the cost, we are about halfway there. I think we have made tremendous progress.

In 1995, we were paying about 6 percent of the cost of educating these children. So we have made great strides. Do we need to continue to do more? Yes, we do. And I think you will see another increase in funding this year as the budget process begins to come to a close. I think the commitment for Members on both sides of the aisle is very strong to continue our commitment to increasing those funds.

Let me, lastly, remark that someone I would have hoped would have been on the floor today is not here. In 1974, there was a new Member of Congress, a member of our committee, happens to be the ranking Democrat on our committee today, GEORGE MILLER. GEORGE MILLER, over these last 30 years that he has been a Member of Congress, probably has exhibited more commitment to this issue and the education of children with special needs than any Member.

I think that while we are pausing to remember the great things that have happened since IDEA became law, we ought to take a moment to thank our colleague, GEORGE MILLER, who, without his commitment, without his dedication to this cause, many Members of Congress may have forgotten.


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