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Special Education Advocates Release Public Policy Agenda

The Council For Exceptional Children, which represents educators who work with students with disabilities, recently published a list of issues it would like Congress to tackle.

There's no lack of big-picture action items on this list, including full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. (When IDEA was first passed in 1975, Congress was authorized to spend up to 40 percent of the cost of teaching students with disabilities. But the federal government has never come close, and currently pays around 16.5 percent to the states, a figure expected to drop if sequestration cuts take hold.)

The organization would also like to see stronger collaboration and coordination between special and general education through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as IDEA. But it is difficult to imagine the currently bogged-down Congress successfully passing some of these big projects.

Even so, Lindsay Jones, the senior director of policy and advocacy services for the Arlington, Va.-based CEC, said that there are at least two bills on the agenda that the group is watching: a House bill reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act that could provide transition assistance for people with disabilities seeking employment, and the TEAM Act, a legislative package introduced by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, a Mississippi Republican, that seeks to strengthen work transitions for students with intellectual disabilities.

And of course, there is the sequester, about which CEC has "grave concerns," Jones said. As bad as those automatic federal budget cuts may be if they go into effect, the uncertainty is also troubling, she said. States are trying to create budgets for the coming fiscal year without knowing how much money they may get from the federal government, and "it's creating a lot of wasted time and effort," she said.

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