Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – welcomed the introduction of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that attempts to improve the education of America’s children with special needs. The “Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act of 2003” (H.R. 1350), which reauthorizes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), strives to improve IDEA in a number of important areas. The Union noted, however, that the proposed legislation needs further improvements to meet the needs of thousands of children with special needs who attend parochial or private schools.
The Orthodox Union had previously addressed the reauthorization of IDEA in a letter to Secretary of Education Rodney Paige. A similar letter, co-signed by a broad interfaith coalition of education groups, will be sent to members of the House of Representatives tomorrow urging them to support the continued improvement in the Child Find and consultation provisions in IDEA and a request to include language that would mandate direct services to non-public school special education students consistent with Supreme Court decisions.
Nathan Diament, the Union’s director of public policy issued the following statement:
The introduction of H.R. 1350 is a positive first step toward improving the current system of special education in this country. It attempts to ensure that all children with special needs are properly identified by local education authorities. However, the needs of these children will not be appropriately met without clear requirements that ensure that states and localities properly serve all children with special needs with direct, on-site provision of services.
The Orthodox Union encourages the House of Representatives to pass legislation that ensures that all students are equally served in the reauthorization of IDEA by adequately funding this critical program and demanding results for our children.