Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Reauthorization Legislation: An Overview
CRS Report for Congress
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Reauthorization Legislation: An Overview
Updated June 4, 1997
Steven R. Aleman
Specialist in Social Legislation
Education and Public Welfare Division
Nancy Lee Jones
American Law Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Reauthorization
Legislation: An Overview
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) authorizes several
programs to support and improve early intervention and special education for infants,th
toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. The 105 Congress has considered
legislation to amend, revise, and extend IDEA. The President signed the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, P.L. 105-17, on June 4, 1997.
The amendments are comprehensive in nature and address a wide range of legal and
programmatic issues affecting early intervention and special education.
Discipline. Schools have specific statutory authority to remove certain
misbehaving students with disabilities from classrooms and place them in alternative
settings for up to 45 days. New, but limited, authority is given to hearing officers to
change the placement of disabled children.
Cessation of Educational Services. Disabled students are specifically entitled
to special educational services, even if expelled from school.
Attorneys’ Fees. There are some new limits on the recovery of attorneys’ fees
by parents of children with disabilities.
Mediation. Before parents could request a formal due process hearing over a
dispute about the schooling of their disabled child, they must be offered mediation and
encouraged through counseling to try mediation first to resolve the issue.
Allocation Formulas. There are new state and substate formulas in the grants
to states and preschool programs. In general, awards are to be based on broader
population factors rather than counts of disabled children served. Because of the
significant change in formula factors, however, several additional provisions are added
to help mitigate shifts in allotment patterns among states.
Educational Improvement. Each disabled child’s individualized education
program must relate programming for the child to achievement in the general
education curriculum. Further, states must establish performance goals and indicators
for disabled pupils as well as include disabled pupils in assessments.
Local Relief. When federal appropriations for the grants to states program
exceed $4.1 billion and a school district gets a larger award, the district would be
permitted to reduce local spending on special education by a certain amount.
Special Purpose Programs and Infants and Toddlers Program. The 14
discretionary grant programs are consolidated into two new special purpose
programs. A third new special purpose program focuses on statewide special
education reform. The early intervention program is revised and extended through
Background .................................................... 1
Legislation in the 105 Congress....................................3th
Discipline .................................................. 5
Cessation of Educational Services...............................7
Mediation ................................................. 8
Grants to States Program.................................10
Special Purpose Programs....................................12
Infants and Toddlers Program.................................13
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Reauthorization Legislation: An Overview
Previously, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) included a
total of 17 programs to support and improve early intervention and special education
for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. The authorization for 15 of
these programs expired in FY1995. The 104 Congress undertook but did notth
complete a reauthorization of IDEA. The 105 Congress has finished considerationth
of legislation to revise and extend IDEA — the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act Amendments of 1997 (H.R. 5). The President signed the measure on June 4,
This report provides an overview of IDEA and its reauthorization and describes
the IDEA Amendments of 1997.
Prior to the 1997 reauthorization, IDEA included three formula grant programs
that assisted states to serve children with disabilities in different age ranges, and 14
special purpose programs that supported early intervention and special education
research, demonstrations, technical assistance, and personnel training. (For more
information on these programs, see Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:
Summary of Current Programs, CRS Report 95-675, by Steven R. Aleman.) Of the
formula grant programs, two are permanently authorized — the grants to states
program and the preschool program. The third formula grant program — the infants
and toddlers program — expired in FY1995. Of the special purpose programs, all 14
programs expired in FY1995.
Although the authorization of appropriations lapsed, the infants and toddlers
program as well as the special purpose programs are funded for FY1997. The
Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 1997 (P.L. 104-208) provides a total of
$4.0 billion for IDEA — both the authorized and expired programs. The U.S.
Department of Education (ED) will administer all IDEA programs under prior law,
contingent on funding, until the effective date of the IDEA amendments.
IDEA legislation advanced in the 104 Congress but ultimately did not becomethth
law. (For information on activities in the 104 Congress on IDEA, see Special
Education: Programmatic Issues in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,th
CRS Report 97-6, by Steven R. Aleman.) The 105 Congress resumed efforts to
reauthorize IDEA. H.R. 5, the IDEA Improvement Act of 1997, was introduced on
January 7, 1997. S. 216, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments
of 1997, was introduced on January 28, 1997. The Senate Committee on Labor and
Human Resources held a hearing on IDEA on January 29, 1997. The House1
Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families held hearings on IDEA on
February 4 and 6, 1997.2
Committee consideration of IDEA bills took place in both chambers on May
!The Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources marked up S. 717. (S.
717, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, was
introduced on May 7, 1997.) The Committee adopted four amendments en
bloc. As amended, the Committee approved S. 717 by voice vote.3
!The House Committee on Education and the Workforce marked up H.R. 5.
The Committee adopted a substitute amendment as well as four amendments
en bloc; the Committee rejected two amendments. As amended, the
Committee approved H.R. 5 by voice vote.4
The Committee versions of H.R. 5 and S. 717 were identical, including their short title
— the IDEA Amendments of 1997.
Floor consideration of H.R. 5 and S. 717 followed committee action:
!On May 13, 1997, the House passed H.R. 5 under suspension of the rules by
a roll call vote of 420-3.
!On May 14, 1997, the Senate passed H.R. 5 by a roll call vote of 98-1 (after
debating S. 717). The Senate accepted two technical amendments and rejected
two amendments to S. 717 prior to passage of H.R. 5.
See: U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Labor and Human Resources.1
Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Hearing. Senate
Hearing No. 105-1, 105 Congress, first session, January 29, 1997. Washington,th
See: U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Education and the Workforce.2
Hearings on H.R. 5, the IDEA Improvement Act of 1997. Hearings. Serial No. 105-th
The committee report accompanying S. 717 was ordered to be printed on May 9,3
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997. Report to
accompany S. 717. Senate Report No. 105-17, 105 Congress, first session.th
Washington, GPO, 1997. (Hereafter referred to as U.S. Congress, Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, Senate Report No. 105-17)
The committee report accompanying H.R. 5 was ordered to be printed on May 13,4
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997. Report to
accompany H.R. 5. House Report No. 105-95, 105 Congress, first session.th
Washington, GPO, 1997.
The President signed the IDEA Amendments of 1997, P.L. 105-17, on June
Legislation in the 105 Congressth
P.L. 105-17 makes comprehensive changes to IDEA. The legislation not only
amends and extends IDEA’s expired programs — infants and toddlers and the special
purpose programs, but also modifies the substantive requirements of IDEA’s
permanently authorized programs — grants to states and preschool programs.5
Indeed, the focus of the measure is on revising the grants to states program. The
grants to states program is the centerpiece of IDEA.6
In general, P.L. 105-17 retains the basic structure of IDEA — three formula
grant programs and the discretionary grant programs. The primary emphasis in the
measure is on adjusting IDEA’s provisions on:
!state and substate allocation formulas;
!the terms and conditions for state eligibility and participation;
!the terms and conditions for local eligibility and participation;
!the required services and procedures for meeting the needs of infants, toddlers
and children with disabilities;
!parental participation in the education of their disabled children;
!the due process rights of infants, toddlers and children with disabilities and
their parents; and
!support for reform, research, dissemination of information on best practices,
and personnel training.
The following sections of this report describe the key elements of the legislation
within the context of the major legal and programmatic issues in IDEA.
Although not technically up for reauthorization, the measure revises the grants to5
states and preschool programs in conjunction with the reauthorization of the parts of
IDEA that have expired. (The grants to states and preschool programs remain
permanently authorized; only their substantive requirements are amended.)
The grants to states program is a conditional grant program that couples the6
acceptance of financial assistance with several stipulations. Under the grants to states
program, school-age children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public
education in the least restrictive setting, including special education and related
services according to their individualized education program.
Key features of the IDEA reauthorization include:
!Expanded procedures for the discipline of disabled students. Schools have
specific statutory authority to remove certain misbehaving students with
disabilities from classrooms and place them in alternative settings for up to 45
days. New, but limited, authority is given to hearing officers to change the
placement of disabled children.
!No cessation of educational services. Disabled students are statutorily entitled
to special educational services, even if expelled from school for disciplinary
!Limits on the recovery of attorneys’ fees. Parents who prevail in due process
disputes with school districts may not recover those attorneys’ fees connected
to meetings on the individualized education program (IEP) of their disabled
!Increased reliance on mediation. Before parents can request a formal due
process hearing over a dispute about the schooling of their disabled child, they
must be offered mediation and encouraged through counseling to try mediation
first to resolve the problem.
!New state and substate allocation formulas. Under the grants to states
program, enactment of appropriations above $4.9 billion triggers a new state
formula that distributes a base amount to states equal to their allocations in the
year before the trigger was initially reached and distributes “new money” based
upon total school-age population (weighted 85%) and total school-age
population in poverty (weighted 15%). Minimum and maximum grant
provisions ensure that there would be a floor and ceiling on the amount of aid
going to states. Aid to local school districts would be distributed in a similar
fashion as aid to states.
!Emphasis on educational results. Each disabled child’s IEP must relate
programming for the child to achievement in the general education curriculum.
Further, states must establish performance goals and indicators for disabled
pupils as well as include disabled pupils in statewide assessments and
!Providing fiscal relief to local school districts. When federal appropriations for
the grants to states program exceed $4.1 billion and a school district gets a
larger award, the district is permitted to reduce local spending on special
education by a certain amount.
!Revamped and streamlined special purpose programs. There are three broad
special purpose programs: state program improvement grants; coordinated
research and personnel preparation; and coordinated technical assistance,
support, and dissemination.
P.L. 105-17 generally expands the authority of school officials to discipline
students with disabilities. Various protections, however, are built into the discipline
provisions in order to safeguard the rights of disabled students. The Senate
committee report describes the provisions as striking “a careful balance between the
LEA’s duty to ensure that school environments are safe and conducive to learning for
all children, including children with disabilities, and the LEA’s continuing obligation
to ensure that children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education.”7
Under prior law, children with disabilities were not immune from disciplinary
procedures, but neither were those procedures identical with those for children
without disabilities. Due to a history of exclusion of children with disabilities from
education, IDEA contains a “stay-put” provision that requires that “during the8
pendency of any [due process] proceedings conducted pursuant to this section [§615],
unless the State or local educational agency and the parents of a child with a disability
agree, the child shall remain in the then current educational placement of such child.”9
This provision was at issue in the Supreme Court case of Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305
(1988). The Court there dealt with a case involving two children with disabilities who
had engaged in activities such as breaking windows, choking another student, and
extortion. The Court found that there was no dangerousness exception to the stay put
rule but noted that the schools were not powerless to deal with dangerous children
since they could suspend a child for ten days, use timeouts and ask a court for an
injunction to move the child if necessary.
In 1994, an amendment to IDEA, often referred to as the Jeffords amendment,
allowed schools to place a child with a disability who brings a firearm to school in an
interim alternative placement for 45 days. If the parents request a due process
hearing, this interim alternative placement is where the child remains during the
pendency of any proceedings conducted pursuant to Section 615.
P.L. 105-17 modifies the provisions in IDEA relating to changing the placement
of children with disabilities for disciplinary reasons, although, as noted in the section
below on cessation, educational services to children with disabilities may not cease.
One of the most controversial changes relating to placement is allowing a hearing
officer to order a change in the placement of a child for not more than 45 days if the
!determines that the public agency has demonstrated by substantial evidence
that maintaining the current placement of such child with a disability is
substantially likely to result in injury to the child or others (substantial evidence
is defined as beyond a preponderance of the evidence);
U.S. Congress, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997,7
Senate Report No. 105-17, p. 28.
For a discussion of this history see, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:8
Congressional Intent, CRS Report 95-669, by Nancy Jones.
!considers the appropriateness of the child’s current placement;
!considers whether the public agency has made reasonable efforts to minimize
the risk of harm in the child’s current placement, including the use of
supplementary aids and services; and
!determines that the interim alternative educational setting meets certain
requirements including services and modifications described in the child’s
In addition to the new authority given to a hearing officer, P.L. 105-17 also
expands the use of interim alternative placements. Prior law is codified so school
personnel are given explicit authority to order a change in placement or suspension
for not more than 10 days to the extent such measures would be applied to children
without disabilities. School personnel may order a change in placement to an
appropriate interim alternative educational setting if the child carries a weapon to
school or a school function or knowingly possesses or uses illegal drugs or sells or
solicits the sale of a controlled substance while at school or a school function; this
action may be for the same amount of time that a child without a disability would be
subject to discipline, but for not more than 45 days. Either before or not later than
10 days from taking this action, the local educational agency (LEA) must either
review an existing behavioral intervention plan or convene an IEP meeting to develop
an assessment plan to address the behavior. P.L. 105-17 provides that the alternative
educational setting is to be determined by the IEP team and that this setting must meet
The new legislation also contains specific language regarding manifestation
determinations. IDEA previously did not discuss what consequences occur depending
on whether a child’s behavior is a manifestation of a disability or not. However, ED
in its interpretation of the statute has found that school officials have more discretion
in applying the same standards to children with disabilities as apply to children without
disabilities if the action of the child with a disability was not a manifestation of that
child’s disability. P.L. 105-17 essentially tracks the existing ED interpretation but10
also provides for an expedited hearing when a parent disagrees with a determination
that a child’s behavior was not a manifestation of a disability.
P.L. 105-17 discusses where the child shall be placed during appeals regarding
disciplinary action. If the child has been placed in an interim alternative educational
setting, and the parents request a hearing, the child shall remain in that setting pending
the decision of the hearing officer or until the expiration of the time periods specified,
whichever occurs first. If the child is placed in an interim alternative educational
setting and school officials propose to change the child’s placement after the
expiration of the interim alternative educational setting, and a hearing is requested, the
child shall return upon the expiration and remain in the current placement; that is, the
child’s placement prior to the interim alternative educational setting. If school
officials maintain that it is dangerous for the child to be in the current placement
OSEP Memorandum 95-16, 22 IDELR 531 (June 1, 1995).10
during the pendency of the due process proceedings, the LEA may request an
expedited hearing. These provisions differ from prior law as expressed in the Jeffords
amendment in that the child will not remain in the interim alternative educational
setting for an indefinite period of time while waiting for an appeal to be decided.
Issues involving the discipline of children with disabilities have been among the
most contentious in the reauthorization process. P.L. 105-17 reflects an attempt to
balance concerns, based on a history of exclusion, of ensuring the provision of an
appropriate education for children with disabilities, with concerns regarding school
safety. School officials have often argued that the previous process of obtaining an
injunction to remove an allegedly dangerous child if the parents do not agree is too
burdensome on the school. The legislation addresses this issue by providing for new,
but limited, authority to hearing officers. Some have argued that this is too much
authority to be vested in a hearing officer who may tend to be more favorable to the
schools. On the other hand, this approach, especially with the limitations enunciated
in the new language, arguably provides for a quick and impartial solution to
maintaining safe schools.
Cessation of Educational Services
The cessation of educational services for children with disabilities has also been
one of the more controversial issues during the reauthorization of IDEA. P.L. 105-17
does not allow the cessation of educational services for children with disabilities who
The legislation specifically requires that to be eligible for assistance under IDEA
the state must ensure that “a free appropriate public education is available to all
children with disabilities residing in the State . . . including children who have been
suspended or expelled from school.”
ED has interpreted the requirement for a free appropriate public education
(FAPE) in prior law as meaning that educational services must continue for all
children with disabilities, even those who are excluded for misconduct that was not
a manifestation of a disability. However, the Department found that these educational
services could be provided in the home, an alternative school, or in another setting.
ED’s interpretation was called into question by the Fourth Circuit court of
appeals decision in Virginia Department of Education v. Riley, 106 F.3d 559 (4 Cir.th
1997). In this case, the court found that the plain language of IDEA does not
condition the receipt of IDEA funds on the continued provision of educational
services to children with disabilities who are expelled or suspended and that,
therefore, educational services are not required for these children. The legislation11
changes this result by providing specific language prohibiting cessation.
For a more detailed analysis of this case and the issue of cessation generally, see11
Cessation of Educational Services and the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act, CRS Report 97-258, by Nancy Jones.
P.L. 105-17 provides for the award of attorneys’ fees with certain exceptions,
including a prohibition on the award of attorneys’ fees relating to any meeting of the
IEP team unless such meeting is convened as a result of an administrative proceeding
or judicial action.
As under prior law, the legislation provides that in any action or proceeding
brought under Section 615, a court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys’
fees as part of the costs to the parents of a child with a disability who is the prevailing
party. These fees are to be based on rates prevailing in the community in which the
action or proceeding arose for the kind and quality of services provided and no bonus
or multiplier may be used. Attorneys’ fees are not to be awarded for services
performed subsequent to the time of a written offer of settlement if the offer is made
within certain specified times, the offer is not accepted within 10 days, and the court
or administrative officer finds that the relief finally obtained by the parents is not more
favorable to the parents than the offer of settlement. Attorneys’ fees, including for
services performed after a rejected offer of settlement, may be paid to a parent who
is the prevailing party and who was substantially justified in rejecting the settlement
offer. Attorneys’ fees may also be reduced in certain circumstances including where
the parent unreasonably protracted the final resolution of the controversy. However,
fees may not be reduced if the court finds that the state or local educational agency
unreasonably protracted the final resolution of the action or proceeding or there was
a violation of Section 615.
There are some new provisions on attorneys’ fees. For example, although
courts have been split on whether attorneys’ fees can be awarded for IEP meetings,
the measure specifically limits such awards. In addition, as discussed in the section
below on mediation, awards for attorneys’ fees may be limited for mediation in some
circumstances. A new provision is added allowing for the reduction of attorneys’ fees
where the parent’s attorney did not provide the school district with the appropriate
information in the due process complaint. Adding the provision requiring that12
information be provided was described in the Senate committee report as facilitating
“an early opportunity for schools and parents to develop a common frame of reference
about problems and potential problems that may remove the need to proceed to due
process . . . .”13
P.L. 105-17 adds specific sections to IDEA concerning mediation, but do not
mandate mediation. The measure requires that state or local educational agencies
ensure that procedures are established and implemented to allow parties to resolve
disputes through a mediation process that is at least available whenever an impartial
For a more detailed discussion of the previous statutory provisions relating to12
attorneys’ fees see Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Awards of Attorneys’
Fees, CRS Report 96-873, by Henry Cohen.
U.S. Congress, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997,13
Senate Report No. 105-17, p. 25.
due process hearing is requested or a hearing is requested regarding a placement in
an alternative educational setting for disciplinary reasons. The mediation is:
!to be voluntary on the part of the parties;
!not used to deny or delay a parent’s right to a due process hearing or to deny
any other rights under part B;
!conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective
The legislation also allows the state or local education agency to establish
procedures to require parents who choose not to use mediation to meet with a
disinterested party to encourage the use of mediation. The state is to maintain a list
of individuals who are qualified mediators and knowledgeable regarding the laws and
regulations of special education and related services. The state is to bear the cost of
the mediation process; each session shall be scheduled in a timely manner and held in
a convenient location; an agreement shall be set forth in a written mediation
agreement; and discussions that occur during mediation are confidential and may not
be used as evidence in any subsequent proceeding. Attorneys’ fees need not be
awarded for mediation at the discretion of the state for a mediation that is conducted
prior to the filing of a complaint. The Senate committee report states that the bill
language neither requires nor prohibits the use of attorneys in mediation.14
Neither prior law nor prior federal regulations contain specific provisions relating
to the use of mediation. However, in a comment to the regulations on due process
hearings, ED has encouraged the use of mediation so long as it is not used to deny or
delay a parent’s rights. ED has also found that the use of discretionary funds for1516
reimbursement of mediation fees was a permissible expenditure. In the past, case
law has allowed for the award of attorneys’ fees for assistance during mediation.17
U.S. Congress, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997,14
Senate Report No. 105-17, p. 26.
Department of Education Policy Letter, 18 IDELR 279 (August 7, 1991).16
Masotti and Masotti v. Tuskin Unified School District, 806 F. Supp. 221 (C.D.17
Calif. 1992); E.M. v. Millville Board of Education, 849 F. Supp. 312 (D. N .J. 1994).
For a more detailed discussion of mediation and IDEA see Mediation and the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), CRS Report 96-211, by Nancy
P.L. 105-17 substantially changes both the state and substate formulas in the
grants to states and preschool programs. In general, awards will be based on broader
population factors rather than counts of disabled children served. Because of the
significant change in formula factors, several additional provisions are added to help
mitigate shifts in allotment patterns among states.
Grants to States Program. The measure outlines a new scheme to distribute
aid under the grants to states program. Key features of the new distribution system
!A trigger appropriations level of $4.9 billion that would have to be reached
before the new state formula would take effect.
!A new state formula with broader population factors that would distribute
“new money.” States would receive a base amount equal to their awards in the
year before the trigger appropriations level was reached.
!Broader population factors that would distribute 85% of “new money” on the
basis of total population within the age range that states provide FAPE (e.g.,
3-21 years); 15% of “new money” would be distributed on the basis of total
population in poverty within the age range that states provide FAPE.
!Minimum grant provisions that would ensure that each state received at least
some increase in the first year that there is “new money,” and in any year that
there is more “new money” to distribute than the year before.
!Maximum grant provisions that would limit state grant increases in the first
year that there is “new money,” and in any year that there is more “new
money” to distribute than the year before.
!A new substate formula for distributing aid to local school districts and eligible
state agencies that would take effect with the new state formula. LEAs would
receive a base award equal to what their grant would have been in the last year
before the trigger was reached as if the state had distributed 75% of its award
to LEAs; “new money” would be allotted 85% on the basis of public and
private school enrollment within LEAs, and 15% on the basis of the number
of children living in poverty within LEAs. There would be no minimum or
maximum grant provisions for LEAs.
Preschool Program. The measure also contains new formula provisions for the
preschool program. In general, the new provisions for the preschool program are
identical to those outlined for the grants to states program. The key difference is that
there is no trigger appropriations level that must be reached before they become
operational (the base year is FY1997).
P.L. 105-17 attempts to improve educational results for children with disabilities.
The measure focuses these efforts in three main areas: IEPs, performance goals, and
The IEP is a mandated document for each child with a disability that, among
other things, spells out the specific special education and related services to be
provided to the child. Among the more significant changes made by the legislation
concerning the development and contents of the IEP are:
!The IEP team. Each child’s IEP must be developed by a team of educators.
The measure expands the membership of the IEP team to include, if
appropriate, the teacher of the regular education classroom where the child
would be placed.
!Special factors. The measure requires the IEP team to take into account five
factors in the preparation of the IEP. These factors address the special needs
of disabled students who have behavior problems, are limited English
proficient, blind, have special communication needs, or special technology
!Contents of the IEP. The measure requires that each child’s IEP relate the
programming for the child to achievement in the general education curriculum.
Further, the IEP must include the modifications needed to allow the child to
participate in state or districtwide assessment programs or an explanation of
why the child would not participate and how the child would be assessed. In
addition, the IEP must reflect any parental input.
Prior law did not call for performance goals. Under the measure, states are
required to establish goals for the performance of children with disabilities. Further,
states must establish performance indicators to gauge progress toward the goals.
States must report on their progress in meeting the goals every 2 years.
Prior law was silent on the participation of disabled students in assessments
given to students at large. Under P.L. 105-17, states are required to include children
with disabilities in general state and districtwide assessment programs, with
appropriate accommodations; states and local districts must develop alternative
assessments for those disabled children who would not be able to take the general
assessments by July 1, 2000. States are required, with certain exceptions, to publish
reports on the performance of disabled students on regular assessments by no later
than July 1, 1998, and on the performance of disabled students on alternative
assessments by no later than July 1, 2000.
P.L. 105-17 seeks to provide relief to local school districts from the expenses
associated with IDEA. The three main areas where new provisions attempt to lessen
the funding burden are the maintenance of effort requirement, fiscal accountability
rules, and interagency coordination of the financial responsibility for services.
Under prior law, LEAs generally had to expend at least as much on special
education and related services as they did in the previous year. This is known as the
maintenance of effort requirement. The measure allows local districts to spend a
certain amount less then they did in the previous year when federal appropriations for
the grants to states program exceed $4.1 billion and larger local awards result. In any
year that more than $4.1 billion is appropriated, then a LEA may reduce its
expenditure of local funds by an amount equal to up to 20% of the increase in its
IDEA allotment from the prior year. For instance, if the grants to states program
appropriation was above $4.1 billion and that resulted in an IDEA allotment to a LEA
$100,000 larger than its allotment the previous year, then the LEA could reduce its
local spending on special education by $20,000 (20% of $100,000). In effect, some
of the benefit from a rise in federal appropriations over $4.1 billion would go towards
local relief. Under certain circumstances, however, a state would be authorized to
prevent a LEA from taking advantage of this new relief provision.
Some critics of IDEA have argued that its accountability rules unnecessarily
restrict practices that could benefit other students while doing no harm to disabled
children. P.L. 105-17 reflects this view and sanctions incidental benefits flowing
from the use of IDEA grants. LEAs are specifically allowed to use IDEA aid for
special education and related services for a disabled pupil in a regular class even if
nondisabled students benefitted on an incidental basis.
As under prior law, states must have interagency agreements on the financial
responsibility of state and local public agencies for the services guaranteed to disabled
children under IDEA. The measure strengthens state coordination of interagency
resources. Among other things, each state’s interagency agreement or mechanism
must ensure that public agencies assume the financial responsibility for IDEA services
that they also provide before LEAs are required to pay. Further, public agencies
otherwise obligated under federal or state law, or assigned the responsibility, to
provide or pay for a service required under IDEA would have to fulfill that obligation
Special Purpose Programs
P.L. 105-17 significantly alters the special purpose programs of IDEA. The
number of special purpose programs decreases from 14 to 3 in a new part D. Of the
three new programs, one represents a new federal initiative while the other two are
a merging and consolidating of previous programs.
The state program improvement grants program is a new IDEA initiative. The
program will make competitive grants to states for special education reform. States
would use at least 75%, and under limited circumstances, at least 50% of their grant
for addressing personnel issues in the state surrounding special education (for
instance, training of teachers in new instructional approaches).
The coordinated research and personnel preparation program encompasses
activities previously conducted under the following antecedent programs:
!serious emotional disturbance;
!early childhood education;
!secondary and transitional services;
!innovation and development;
!special studies; and
The coordinated technical assistance, support, and dissemination program
encompasses activities previously conducted under the following antecedent
!regional resource centers;
!media and captioning services; and
The three new special purpose programs are authorized at “such sums as may
be necessary” through FY2002.
Infants and Toddlers Program
P.L. 105-17 revises and extends the early intervention program for infants and
toddlers with disabilities who are under the age of 3. The program, formerly
authorized in part H, is now authorized in part C. The program continues to provide
formula grants to participating states to assist them in the maintenance and
implementation of statewide systems of early intervention.
Significant revisions to the program include:
More emphasis on serving infants and toddlers with disabilities in natural
environments — i.e., locations where the child would be if not disabled such as the
home or nursery school.
For those states that have opted to not extend program eligibility to infants and
toddlers at risk of becoming developmentally delayed, there is authority to use IDEA
funds for limited activities for this population such as making referrals to other
During the development of the individualized family service plan, the identification of
family needs surrounding the disabled infant or toddler must be family directed.
The new part C takes effect on July 1, 1998. The program is authorized at
$400,000,000 for FY1998, and “such sums as may be necessary” for FY1999 through