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

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me time. I also thank her for her excellent and her tireless work on this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the conference report. This legislation is a remarkable improvement over the House bill and deserves the support of us today. The bill represents a good compromise reflecting the views of schools, disability advocates and, most importantly, parents.

The bill protects the civil rights of children with disabilities in critical areas. The bill ensures compliance with IDEA's key provisions through a strong monitoring and enforcement system.

This system will lead States to fix problems before children with disabilities fail to receive a free appropriate public education.

This bill also makes IDEA work for all stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and school districts. First, the legislation provides new opportunities for parents and schools to address concerns before the need to file a lawsuit arises.

Second, the bill increases parental involvement in IEP meetings by allowing the use of teleconferencing, video conferencing, and other alternative means of participation.

Third, the legislation requires initial evaluations to occur within 60 days of referral, ensuring that children get the help they need. The conference report also provides fiscal relief for school districts. The bill allows school districts which are in compliance with IDEA to replace a portion of their local expenditures with Federal funding.

This will allow school districts to begin to realize the promise we made 30 years ago to provide the Federal share of special education costs. Most importantly, Mr. Speaker, the bill also improves discipline and ensures the safety of disabled and nondisabled children alike.

The bill requires schools to determine if a child's behavior was the result of their disability or poor implementation of their IEP when considering a disciplinary action. In addition, the bill prevents schools from placing children with disabilities in alternative placements for unlimited periods of time.

Despite its positive aspects, Mr. Speaker, the main failure of this legislation is that it does not immediately meet the promise of full funding of IDEA. We made this promise nearly 30 years ago and have consistently failed to meet it.

Soon we will have an appropriations bill on this floor, hopefully today, that will not even meet the levels we have authorized in this bill. While I support this conference report, we need to do a better job of living up to our promises. This bill puts us on that path; and I therefore urge that we pass it.

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