Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America—the nation’s largest umbrella organization of Orthodox synagogues representing almost 1,000 congregations nationwide—welcomed passage of S.1248, the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by a vote of 95 -3.
IDEA is the federal government’s primary means of funding special education services in this country. Over the past two years, the Union, with coalition partners, has worked closely with Senators Gregg (R-NH), Kennedy (D-MA), Frist (R-TN) and Clinton (D-NY) to develop improvements to IDEA so that the program better addresses the needs of special needs children in non-public schools and to bring the legislation to today’s successful floor vote. The reauthorization makes it more likely that parentally placed students in private and religious schools will receive the direct services they are entitled to through a number of mechanisms including:
• A thorough and complete ‘Child Find’ evaluation process;
• Receipt of a proportionate share of IDEA funds;
• Provision of direct services allowed;
• On-site provision of direct services allowed; and
• Mandated record keeping and reporting on private school children evaluated and determined to have a disability through the ‘Child Find’ process.
Nathan Diament, Director of Public Policy for the Union, issued the following statement following the Senate vote:
The Senate has taken an important step in improving special education for America’s special needs students – including those special needs students whose parents choose to enroll them in parochial schools. Currently, these students rarely receive the direct services to which they are entitled by law and, if they do receive such services, must sacrifice valuable education time traveling to and from a different facility than their own school. The improvements in this new version of IDEA make it more likely that parochial school students receive direct services on site. We are grateful to senate committee Chairman Gregg, Ranking Member Kennedy and as well as other concerned members of the Senate – including Senators Frist, Santorum, Clinton and Mikulski — for their efforts to improve the education for all of America’s special needs children. We look forward to working with the Senate-House conference committee to continue to improve upon this legislation for the benefit of all children and families.