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Primary Election Brings Loss to Special Education Advocate

My colleagues at Politics K-12 have already reported on the electoral loss of Rep. Mike Castle, a moderate Republican from Delaware who lost a bid for the Senate seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden.

Castle served as a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee and either the chairman or the ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, depending on which party was in the majority. As a 9-term House member and former governor of Delaware, Castle has long been known for his interest in K-12 issues, but his interest in special education issues in particular was notable.

He was the author of the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which guarantees a free, appropriate public education to students with disabilities nationwide. He also helped write the 1997 revision of the IDEA and the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary And Secondary Education Act.

Castle also co-sponsored of a bill that would have provided more federal funding to special education, the Everyone Deserves Unconditional Access to Education, or EDUCATE Act.

"Rep. Castle has consistently led the effort to improve federal programs benefiting children, youth, and adults with disabilities," said Bruce Ramirez, the executive director of the Council For Exceptional Children, when the organization gave Castle its Outstanding Public Service Award this past June. The National Council for Learning Disabilities also gave Castle an award in May of this year for distinguished advocacy.

Katherine Beh Neas, a co-chairwoman of the education subcommittee of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, said that Castle had a reputation as a legislator who was not afraid to dig into some complicated issues, like his recent work on promoting appropriate accommodations for testing students with disabilities.

"The word I keep coming back to is that he was thoughtful, and someone who made decisions based on facts," Neas told me today. "He was also someone who was very connected to people with disabilities in Delaware. We will miss working with him."

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