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Conference Report on H.R. 1350, Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Massachusetts for yielding me this time. I want to commend the leadership of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, from Chairman Boehner and Ranking Member GEORGE MILLER to Subcommittee Chairman CASTLE and Ranking Member WOOLSEY, all the members of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, the work that was done in the conference committee for trying to produce this bipartisan bill. That is why today I am proud to stand in support of the rule and also in support of the reauthorization of IDEA.

Mr. Speaker, this is an incredibly important program that was created in the mid-1970s. It was created under the premise that every child in America should have access to a quality education, including children with special needs. Since that time, the schools throughout the Nation have brought these kids in, have embraced them, have dealt with issues in regards to the authorization language, in regards to funding issues; but fundamentally it is a program that works and is working for our children with special needs.

This legislation, I think, goes to clean up a lot of the problems that were inherent in IDEA. The gentleman from Delaware just referenced some of the paperwork burden that our special education teachers have been straddled with for so many years. There has been the issue of disciplinary problems in the classroom that I think we have reached a good compromise on now. It was the goal in this reauthorization bill to improve the quality of the teachers in the classroom dealing with these children with special needs, the second most important determinant on how well our kids are going to perform just behind parental involvement. It does strive to increase student performance and educational achievement. Overall, this is a very good bipartisan bill, and I would recommend my colleagues today to support this reauthorization bill.

But there are also some things in the future that we have to stay focused on and continue to work on and that is the impact of No Child Left Behind and the new standards and the testings and the impact it is going to have on these children with special needs and the fact that under No Child Left Behind, every child is supposed to be 100 percent in conformance of the rules that were written by the Department of Education by 2014. We just know now that there are some children that are not going to be able to obtain that high standard. Unless we are willing to start telling the schools that by 2014 every one of them is going to be failing, I think we need to be a little bit more realistic in our approach to these children and what is going to be required, but without leaving any child behind.

But I think another big problem that we are going to have to continue to slug out here starting with this omnibus coming up but also in future years is the funding of IDEA. The Congress has never lived up to the full cost share promise that was made, the 40 percent cost share for IDEA funding. This means the financial burden has been left at the local level. It is affecting property taxes back in the State of Wisconsin, which are going up way too much; and it is starting to pit students against students in the classroom over the allocation of the limited resources that we are allotting for IDEA and also now for No Child Left Behind.

I am disheartened to hear some of the figures coming out of the omnibus discussions where the President was requesting a $1 billion plus-up for IDEA. It looks like we are only going to get about $600 million. That is far short because this last fiscal year we were only funding it at 19 percent of the 40 percent full cost share. We can do better. For $10 billion, we could fully fund IDEA and get up to that 40 percent cost share and alleviate the financial burden that is straddling so many of our school districts throughout the Nation. It is just a question of priority, a priority of what we are going to place first as an investment in our budget, whether it is going to be the children and the future of our Nation or whether it is going to be other priorities that we are going to see in this omnibus.

Let us face it, Mr. Speaker. By the end of this year, we will have allocated close to $200 billion for what is taking place right now in Iraq. We are hearing rumors now that the administration is going to come back early next year requesting another 70 to $75 billion in Iraq. With just a fraction of that amount, we could fully fund IDEA, fully fund No Child Left Behind, give the schools, give the teachers, give the parents the resources they need to make sure that every child has the opportunity that they need to succeed in this country and in this world. That is what is at stake.

While we have got a good bill to support today, I think there is more work that we have to stay focused on and try to work in a bipartisan fashion to address the implications of No Child Left Behind with IDEA students and the element of full funding for this program. Hopefully, we will have the same type of bipartisan spirit as we move forward in the future.

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