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Senator James Jeffords Fight For Special Education

May 29, 2001: Special Education Figured Big in Jeffords Defection
December 12, 2001: Education Reform Package Ignores Special Education Funding

Special Education Figured Big in Jeffords Defection
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 29, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--James Jeffords was a young congressman in 1975 when the U.S. Congress passed the law that is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In passing the IDEA, which guaranteed educational and support services for students with disabilities, Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the costs for those services.

A quarter of a century later, the federal government is paying between 10 and 15 percent of special education costs, a fact that has frustrated few lawmakers like it has Senator Jeffords from Vermont. Jeffords has repeatedly pushed for increased funding in special education, only to find resistance from within his own party.

Just this year, Jeffords led the Senate in passing a budget amendment that would have increased federal spending on special education to about $180 billion over the next ten years. But, because of pressure from Republican leaders and the Administration, Jeffords' provision was removed from the measure before it was approved.

Last week, Jeffords announced that he would be leaving the Republican Party and become an Independent, thereby giving control of the Senate to the Democratic Party.

"Looking ahead, I can see more and more instances where I will disagree with the president on very fundamental issues," Jeffords said last week. "The largest, for me, is education."

This story ran in USA Today:
"Jeffords criticizes Bush education plan"

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Education Reform Package Ignores Special Education Funding
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 12, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--On January 23, 2001, just a few days after his inauguration, President Bush sent to Congress what he called his "No Child Left Behind" plan for comprehensive education reform.

Many lawmakers, educators, administrators, along with parents of children with disabilities and disability advocates, had hoped Bush's stated commitment would lead the federal government to fulfill a promise it made more than 25 years ago -- to fund 40 percent of the cost of special education. The federal government has never picked up more than 15 percent of the cost since Congress passed the 1995 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

After months of negotiations, House and Senate conferees came to an agreement Tuesday on what is being called "the most comprehensive education reform package since the mid-1960s". It is expected to be passed by the full Congress before the holidays and signed into law by President Bush before the end of the year.

Among other things, the measure increases accountability for schools and requires minimum testing standards.

It includes no increase in special education funding.

Republican leaders, with the support of the White House, defeated an attempt by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa to increase financing for special education.

The Republicans said they wanted to see special education reform before increasing funding for it. In particular, they want to know why a high percentage of students -- in particular minority students -- are identified as needing special education services.

Senator James M. Jeffords, who originally signed on as a sponsor of the legislation, ended up voting against it.

"The resources are not there to make this bill work," said Jeffords. The Vermont Senator defected from the Republican Party earlier this year in part because of a dispute over education funding. His decision to become an Independent shifted the balance of power within the Senate.

The Washington Post ran this article on the reform package Wednesday:

This is a media release from the U.S. Department of Education:

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