TO: Day School & Community Leaders
FROM: Nathan J. Diament, Director, O.U. Inst. for Public Affairs
DATE: December 3 2004
RE: Enactment of New Federal Special Education Law
Today, President George W. Bush signed into law the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) which contains language that should improve the opportunities for students with disabilities attending day schools and yeshivot to benefit from federally funding of special education services. (The sections pertaining to children with disabilities placed by their parents in private schools begins at Section 612(a)(10), pages 46-55 of the Adobe PDF file accessible here.
IDEA reauthorization, which has taken three years to accomplish, contains numerous procedural safeguards in order that students with disabilities enrolled in non-public schools will receive their fair share of federally funded services to address their disabilities. The OU/IPA worked over these years in a leading role with a coalition of organizations and a bipartisan group of Congressmen and Senators to secure these improvements for the benefit of our communities’ children.
Improvements in the New IDEA Include:
Placing the responsibility for identifying private school children with disabilities and providing proportional federal services on the public school district where the private school is located rather than where the student lives. This change should allow both public and private school personnel to more efficiently identify and serve students in private schools.
Requiring that local authorities administering IDEA funds must utilize, at least, a proportionate share of the federal IDEA funds they receive to provide services to students with disabilities in private schools, and that funds spent for “Child Find” do not count against that proportionate share.
Specifying that public school districts must consult with representatives of private schools and parents about how Child Find will identify students with disabilities in private schools and how private school children with disabilities will be served. The consultation language is similar to that found in No Child Left Behind.
Requiring public school officials put in writing the reason for denying direct services to private school students if private school representatives request such services rather than indirect services to teachers.
Requiring that public schools put in writing the reason for denying services through a third party provider if private school representatives request it.
Initiating a sign-off procedure whereby school districts must obtain in writing from private school representatives an assurance that meaningful consultation has occurred.
Instituting a requirement that public school districts keep accurate records of the number of private school students requesting evaluations, receiving evaluations, and given services.
Including a complaint procedure for private school representatives and parents to use and a bypass authority for the U.S. Secretary of Education to grant requests denied by local officials.
It will take six to twelve months for the U.S. Department of Education to develop and issue implementing regulations for this new statute, and we will be working closely with Department officials in that task. Nevertheless, in the interim, it is worthwhile for school officials in our community to begin reviewing the new legal landscape and entering in to conversations among our schools, with similarly situated nonpublic schools in your community (I would especially recommend the Catholic schools who have great expertise in this arena and with whose national representatives we worked closely in Washington on this legislative process) and with local government officials.
As we have greater opportunity to study the new IDEA language and as the regulatory process moves forward, the OU/IPA will put out additional guidance on how Jewish schools and families can benefit from this reauthorized law. Please watch our website – www.ou.org/public for additional postings of information.