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Public Policy : HECSE Correspondence Last Updated: Oct 20th, 2006 - 13:46:00


HECSE Letter to Senate Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education 10/18/06
By Stan Shaw
Oct 20, 2006, 13:38

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October 18, 2006

Chairman Arlen Specter Chairman
Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education
Appropriations
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC

Dear Senator Specter,

Thank you for your ongoing leadership in seeking to secure additional funding for education.
When Congress returns in November you will have an important opportunity to determine education funding, and we urge you to do all that you can to ensure that overall education spending is at least at the level of FY 2005.

On behalf of the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education, I would like to bring to your attention three programs that are critical for special education students: Personnel Preparation under Part D of IDEA, the National Center for Special Education Research under the Institute of Education Sciences and the Demonstration Projects to Ensure Students with Disabilities Receive a Quality Higher Education under Title VII of the Higher Education Act.

The Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE) is comprised of 54 universities with doctoral programs in special education. Our member institutions are at the forefront of teacher education, research and development in special education. We work extensively with local and state education agencies to ensure that teachers and other professionals have the skills they need to provide a free appropriate public education to all students with disabilities.

President Bush’s budget called for flat funding for Personnel Preparation under Part D of IDEA at $89.7 million for FY 2007. Both the House and the Senate Committee bills include this amount. We urge you to do all that you can to increase this level of spending to $109 million, as there is tremendous need to provide training to enable compliance with the IDEA mandate for highly qualified special education teachers.

The need for special education teachers and special education faculty is great. The shortage of highly qualified special education teachers is greater than the shortage of highly qualified math and science teachers, and has been for some time. In some urban and rural schools, close to half of the special education teachers are unqualified. Every day over 600,000 students with disabilities are taught by teachers who are unqualified or under-qualified. Ninety eight percent of school districts report that one of their top priorities is to meet the demand for special education teachers. This shortage is exacerbated by the recently enacted requirements in IDEA 2004 requiring all special education teachers to meet requirements to be “highly qualified.”

Today one in three special education vacancies in higher education go unfilled. Of those, 20% are eliminated, thus diminishing the nation’s capacity to train highly qualified special education teachers. Furthermore, our nation produces 30% fewer doctorates in special education than we did 20 years ago, creating a bleak prospect for resolving this crisis. Federal funds for personnel preparation under IDEA are greatly needed.

In FY 2006 the National Center for Special Education Research at the Institute of Education Sciences was funded at $71.8 million, a cut of $12 million from FY 2005. This year, the President’s budget recommends continuing funding at $71.8 million – the figure which is in both the House and Senate Committee bills. We recommend $92 million for this critical account.

One of the most challenging aspects of NCLB has been to develop and implement appropriate assessments for special education students. The Department of Education has recently proposed regulations allowing states to assess up to 20% of special education students using modified assessments. However, these modified assessments do not exist. IES needs to invest in developing such assessments so that they are valid and reliable. This new policy will be impossible to implement if these assessments do not exist and if funding for IES is not adequate.

The President’s budget requested the elimination of funding for the “Demonstration Projects to Ensure Students with Disabilities Receive a Quality Higher Education” in Title VII of the Higher Education Act . We are very disappointed that the House spending bill, HR 5647, has agreed with the president. We are pleased that the Senate bill includes $6.8 million for this program and we urge you to, at a minimum, retain the Senate figure and if possible increase funding to $10 million, the authorized level for this program.

The Higher Education Act, in Title VII, authorizes one critical program that promotes access to higher education for students with disabilities: Demonstration projects to ensure students with disabilities receive a quality higher education. President Bush’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education in 2002 made the following recommendation: “Support higher education faculty, administrators and auxiliary service providers to more effectively provide and help post-secondary students with disabilities to complete a high quality post-secondary education.” These demonstration projects carry out this recommendation. While students with disabilities increasingly participate in postsecondary education, they lag far behind their peers in both participation and graduation. These projects support 27 institutions in 21 states providing essential technical assistance and professional development to college faculty and administrators to ensure that students with disabilities receive a quality postsecondary education. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicate that students with disabilities who graduate from college are as likely to get jobs as their counterparts without disabilities.

Thank you for your leadership on behalf of students with disabilities.

Sincerely,

Stan Shaw
HECSE President
University of Connecticut

© Copyright 2006 HECSE

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