The Individuals with Disabilities Eduction Act (IDEA): Paperwork Reduction in P.L. 108-446
CRS Report for Congress
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA): Paperwork Reduction in P.L. 108-446
May 24, 2005
Nancy Lee Jones
American Law Division
Richard N. Apling
Specialist in Social Legislation
Domestic Social Policy Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):
Paperwork Reduction in P.L. 108-446
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (20 U.S.C. §1400 et
seq.) is both a grants statute and a civil rights statute. It provides federal funding for
the education of children with disabilities and requires, as a condition for the receipt
of such funds, the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). School
districts must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless
of the severity of their disability, to determine which children are eligible for special
education and related services. Each child receiving services has an individual
education program (IEP), created by an IEP team, delineating the specific special
education and related services to be provided to meet his or her needs. The statute
also contains detailed due process provisions to ensure the provision of FAPE.
Paperwork is required to implement many of these statutory provisions, and the
requirements have often been criticized as being overly burdensome. One aim of the
recent reauthorization of IDEA (P.L. 108-446) is to reduce unnecessary paperwork,
as discussed in both the House and Senate committee reports for P.L. 108-446.
P.L. 108-446 contains provisions specifically aimed at reducing paperwork and
administrative burden including a paperwork reduction pilot program, changes in IEP
requirements, changes in requirements for procedural safeguards notices, and a
requirement that the Secretary of Education publish and disseminate model
paperwork forms. This report will not be updated.
In troduction ......................................................1
Time Spent on Paperwork Prior to P.L. 108-446..........................2
Provisions in P.L. 108-446 Relating to Paperwork........................3
Paperwork Reduction Pilot Program...............................3
Use of IDEA Funds to Reduce Paperwork..........................3
Children with Disabilities in Private Schools........................4
Elimination of School-Based Improvement Plan......................4
The Individualized Education Program.............................5
Contents of the IEP........................................5
The IEP Team............................................7
The IEP Process...........................................7
Multi-Year IEP Demonstration Pilot Program....................8
Procedural Safeguards Notice....................................9
Model Paperwork Forms........................................9
The Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA): Paperwork Reduction in
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)1 is both a grants statute
and a civil rights statute. It provides federal funding for the education of children
with disabilities and requires, as a condition for the receipt of such funds, the
provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). School districts must
identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity
of their disability, to determine which children are eligible for special education and
related services. Each child receiving services has an individual education program
(IEP), created by an IEP team, delineating the specific special education and related
services to be provided to meet his or her needs. The statute also contains detailed
due process provisions to ensure the provision of FAPE. Originally enacted in 1975
(P.L. 94-142), the act responded to increased awareness of the need to educate
children with disabilities, and to judicial decisions requiring that states provide an
education for children with disabilities if they provided an education for children
Paperwork is required to implement many of these statutory provisions, and the
requirements have often been criticized as being overly burdensome. It should be
noted that the term “paperwork” encompasses activities and processes that may not
involve paper products. In addition to written forms (such as plans and report cards),
the term often includes meetings and other personal interactions, administrative
duties, as well as computerized record-keeping. Some may define the term more
broadly to including any activity that does not provide direct instruction to pupils.
Others would counter that some non-instructional requirements of IDEA are just as
important as direct instruction to ensure that children with disabilities receive
appropriate educational services.
Reducing paperwork is an aim of the most recent reauthorization of IDEA
(P.L. 108-446).3 The section on congressional findings states that “the education of
1 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq.
2 For a more detailed discussion of the congressional intent behind the enactment of P.L. 94-
Congressional Intent, by Nancy Lee Jones.
3 For more information about P.L. 108-446, see CRS Report RL32716, Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Analysis of Changes Made by P.L. 108-446, by Richard
children with disabilities can be made more effective by ... focusing resources on
teaching and learning while reducing paperwork and requirements that do not assist
in improving educational results.”4 Similarly, Congress finds that “teachers, schools,
local educational agencies, and States should be relieved of irrelevant and
unnecessary paperwork burdens that do not lead to improved educational outcomes.”5
In addition, both the House and Senate committee reports6 for P.L. 108-446 note that
reducing paperwork is an important aim of the legislation. In its concluding remarks,
the House report states that the legislation centers on the “Committee’s principles for
reform,” which among other things includes reducing paperwork.7 The Senate report
notes that one of the ways the legislation would improve IDEA is to “reduce
bureaucratic paperwork for teachers.”8 P.L. 108-446 contains provisions specifically
aimed at reducing paperwork and administrative burdens, including a paperwork
reduction pilot program, changes in IEP requirements, changes in requirements for
procedural safeguards notices, and a requirement that the Secretary of Education
publish and disseminate model paperwork forms.9
Time Spent on Paperwork Prior to P.L. 108-446
The most recent data on paperwork under IDEA is a study by Westat for the10
U.S. Department of Education (ED). This study, which was based on a nationally
representative telephone survey of special education teachers, found that “53 percent
of elementary and secondary special education teachers reported that routine duties
and paperwork interfered with their job of teaching to a great extent” and these
N. Apling and Nancy Lee Jones. (Hereafter cited as CRS Report RL32716, Analysis of
Changes Made by P.L. 108-446).
4 P.L. 108-446 §601(c)(5)(G).
5 P.L. 108-446 §601(c)(9).
6 H.Rept. 108-77, 108th Congress, 1st sess. (2003); and S.Rept. 108-185, 108th Congress, 1st
7 H.Rept. 108-77, 108th Congress, 1st sess., 130 (2003).
8 S.Rept. 108-185, 108th Congress, 1st sess., 2 (2003).
9 It should be noted that some provisions added to IDEA by P.L. 108-446 could result in
additional paperwork and administrative burdens. For example, states are now permitted
to use 10% of funds reserved for state-level activities to create “risk pools” to assist in
aiding high-need children with disabilities. (P.L. 108-446 §611(e)(3)) To use IDEA funds
for this purpose, a state must develop (and annually review and amend as necessary) a state
plan that, among other requirements, establishes participation criteria and develops a
funding mechanism. Elements of the plan, such as determining a definition of “high need,”
require coordination with local educational agencies (LEAs). Developing and revising such
a plan, as well as administering the risk pool, could result in paperwork that some may find
10 Elaine Carlson, Liwan Chen, Karen Schroll, and Sheri Klein, SPeNCE: Study of
Personnel Needs in Special Education. Final Report of the Paperwork Substudy, Westat,
Mar. 24, 2003. (Hereafter cited as Carlson, et al., SPeNCE Paperwork Study.) Available at
teachers “typically spend over 10 percent of their time [5 hours per week] completing
forms and doing administrative paperwork.”11 Among the most time consuming
activities were completing and revising the individualized education program (IEP)
(on average, two hours are spent on each IEP) and IEP meetings (on average, each
meeting takes 1½ hours).12 Although only 35% of special education teachers conduct
evaluations of children with disabilities, those who do spend nearly 12 hours per
month conducting assessments and reviewing assessment information.13
Provisions in P.L. 108-446 Relating to Paperwork
Paperwork Reduction Pilot Program
P.L. 108-446 adds a paperwork reduction pilot program (§609) in order “to
provide an opportunity for States to identify ways to reduce paperwork burdens and
other administrative duties that are directly associated with the requirements of this
title, in order to increase the time and resources available for instruction and other
activities aimed at improving educational and functional results for children with
disabilities.” This program permits the Secretary to waive for up to four years
statutory or regulatory requirements (except civil rights requirements) that applying
states link to excessive paperwork or other noninstructional burdens. These waivers
may be granted to up to 15 states. The statutory provision is not to be construed to
affect the right of a child with a disability to receive FAPE or to permit a state or
local educational agency to waive the procedural safeguards in Section 615 of the act.
The Secretary of Education is to include in the annual report to Congress information
relating to the effectiveness of the waivers in:
!reducing the paperwork burden and reducing noninstructional time
spent by teachers in complying with the act;
!enhancing longer-term educational planning;
!improving positive outcomes for children with disabilities;
!promoting collaboration between IEP Team members and
!ensuring satisfaction of family members.
In addition, the report must include any specific recommendations for the broader
implementation of such waivers.
Use of IDEA Funds to Reduce Paperwork
While amounts that states may reserve from their IDEA Part B grant-to-states
funds for state administration remain mostly unchanged, P.L. 108-446 does change
the amount states may reserve for other state-level activities and expands those
activities (§611(e)(2)). For FY2005 and FY2006, states may reserve 10% of their
11 Ibid., p. 1 (emphasis added).
12 Ibid., p. 5.
13 Ibid., p. 6.
grant.14 For subsequent fiscal years, the maximum amount is adjusted by the rate of
inflation. P.L. 108-446 has added certain required and permitted uses of these
reserved funds. One permitted use of funds is supporting “paperwork reduction
activities, including expanding the use of technology in the IEP process.”15
Children with Disabilities in Private Schools
A child with a disability may be placed in a private school by the LEA or state
education agency (SEA) as a means of fulfilling the FAPE requirement for the child,
in which case the cost is paid for by the LEA. A child with a disability may also be
unilaterally placed in a private school by his or her parents. In the latter situation, the
cost of the private school placement is not paid by the LEA unless a hearing officer
or a court makes certain findings. However, IDEA does require some services for
children in private schools, even if they are unilaterally placed there by their parents.
Exactly what these services are or should be has been a contentious subject for many
years. The 1997 reauthorization of IDEA expanded on the private school provisions
and the 2004 reauthorization includes several changes to the provisions relating to
children who are placed in private school by their parents. The provisions relating
to children placed in private schools by public agencies were not changed.
Generally, children with disabilities enrolled by their parents in private schools
are to be provided special education and related services to the extent consistent with
the number and location of such children in the school district served by a LEA
pursuant to several requirements (§612(a)(10)(A)(I)). This provision was changed
from previous law by the addition of the requirement that the children attending a
private school be located in the school district served by the LEA. The Senate report
described this change as “[a]n effort to streamline and simplify the provision of
services to parentally-placed private school children with disabilities” by protecting
“LEAs from having to work with private schools located in multiple jurisdictions
when students attend private schools across district lines.”16
Elimination of School-Based Improvement Plan
P.L. 108-446 eliminated a provision in the previous law that allowed a public
school to design, implement, and evaluate a school-based improvement plan.17 The
Senate report stated that this authority was eliminated because the provision was
14 Certain smaller states may reserve up to 10.5% (§611(e)(2)A)(ii)). The maximum
percentages are reduced to 9% and 9.5% if the state does not reserve funds for the LEA risk
pool. (See Carlson, et al., SPeNCE Paperwork Study.) (§611(e)(2)(A)(iii)) For FY2004
(prior to the enactment of P.L. 108-446), the average percentage for the maximum set-aside
of other state-level activities was about 7%.
15 P.L. 108-446 §611(e)(2)(C)(ii).
16 S.Rept. 185, 108th Cong., 1st sess., 15-16 (2003). For a more detailed discussion of private
school placements, see CRS Report RL32716, Analysis of Changes Made by P.L. 108-446.
17 P.L. 105-17, §613(g). For a more detailed discussion of the private school provisions in
P.L. 108-446, see CRS Report RS22044, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA): Services in Private Schools Under P.L. 108-446, by Nancy Lee Jones.
ineffective. The Senate report further observed: “Schools can undertake school
improvement activities and realize improved educational and transitional results for
children with disabilities without incurring the additional administration and
paperwork burdens required under this authority.”18
LEAs19 are required to “conduct a full and individual initial evaluation” of a
child before special education and related services are provided, and to conduct
reevaluations as warranted to determine if the education and services provided
require revisions or if the child no longer needs special education and related
services. Reevaluations are required if the child’s teacher or parent makes a request
or if the LEA determines that the child’s educational and service needs, academic
achievement, or functional performance warrants a reevaluation (§614(a)(2)).20 For
example, a reevaluation might be warranted if the child’s performance in school
significantly improves, suggesting that he or she no longer requires special education
and related services, or if the child is not making progress toward the goals set out
in his or her IEP, indicating that changes are needed in the education or related
services the LEA is providing. The prior version of IDEA required that reevaluations
take place at least every three years.21 P.L. 108-446 permits the parent and the LEA
to override this requirement if they agree that a reevaluation is not necessary. In
addition, P.L. 108-446 prohibits reevaluations more frequently than once a year,
unless the parent and the LEA agree. The Senate report states: “In the interest of
parents, children, and school districts, the committee believes that requiring costly
and time-consuming reevaluations when both parents and local educational agencies
deem them to be unnecessary is counterproductive.”22
The Individualized Education Program
Contents of the IEP. The IEP is the blueprint for the education and related
services that the LEA provides for a child with a disability, together with the goals,
academic assessment procedures, and placement of the child (§614(d)). P.L. 108-446
continues to require an articulation of the child’s current academic and functional
performance levels and a discussion of measurable annual goals. However,
complaints about burdensome IEPs led to several changes in previous law. The
House report states that “[o]ne of the top goals for the Committee is to reduce the
unnecessary complications and processes involved in the IEP in order to give parents
18 S.Rept. 185, 108th Cong., 1st sess., 23 (2003).
19 Requirements discussed in this section also apply to the SEA or other state agencies if
they provide direct services to children with disabilities.
20 P.L. 108-446 continues to require parental consent for reevaluations initiated by the LEA,
unless the parent fails to respond after the LEA has “taken reasonable measures to obtain
such consent” (§614(c)(3)).
21 P.L. 105-17, §614(a)(2)(A).
22 S.Rept. 185, 108th Cong., 1st sess., 24-25 (2003).
greater control over the IEP and to make the process more efficient and more
effective for children, their parents, and teachers.”23
A notable change from previous law is the elimination of the requirement for
“benchmarks and short-term objectives” for all children with disabilities24 except
those who are the most severely cognitively disabled25 (§614(d)(1)(A)(i)(I)(cc)). The
Senate report notes that benchmarks were eliminated due to their paperwork burden
While benchmarks and short-term objectives are thought by some to help track
the child’s progress, their inclusion in IEPs contributes greatly to the paperwork
burden on educators and parents and often bears no relationship to the non-linear
reality of a child’s development. Special education practice via short-term
objectives too often focuses on achieving only small incremental improvements
in student performance to the detriment of more effective longer range
planning....Both education officials and the President’s Commission on
Excellence in Special Education have found that [sic] benchmarks and short-term
objectives to be unnecessary and time consuming.... The committee expects that
eliminating the requirements for benchmarks and short-term objectives will
reduce unproductive paperwork and allow greater attention to be focused on the
child’s annual IEP goals and on the methods of measuring progress and reporting26
that progress to parents in a meaningful way.
P.L. 108-446 adds a rule of construction that no additional information is
required for the IEP beyond that explicitly required in §614 and that information in
one part of the IEP need not be contained in another part (§614(d)(1)(A)(ii)). The
Senate report notes that this addition was made to reduce the paperwork burden on
The committee is greatly concerned about the paperwork burden experienced by
teachers and other education personnel in connection with writing IEP’s.
Lengthy and complex IEPs are not necessarily beneficial to students if they
create confusion and take teachers away from instructional time with children.
The committee has examined a number of actual IEPs, and has discovered that
many items in those documents are not required by federal IDEA law. While it
has proven difficult to determine the source or sources generating this additional
paperwork, the committee wants to ensure that the federal law does not
contribute to this problem. Therefore, Section 614(d)(1)(A)(ii) provides that
nothing in the section shall be construed to require that additional information
be included in an IEP beyond what is explicitly required in the section. The bill
retains an existing provision ensuring that the IEP team does not need to include
23 H.Rept. 77, 108th Congress, 1st sess., 110 (2003).
24 P.L. 105-17,§614(d)(1)(A)(ii).
25 P.L. 108-446 refers to “children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned
to alternate achievement standards.” This provision presumably refers to those children
with the most severe cognitive disabilities that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
regulations permit to be assessed based on alternative achievement standards for the
purposes of determining adequate yearly progress (AYP). This group is estimated to be
about 10% of the total population of children with disabilities.
26 S.Rept. 185, 108th Congress, 1st sess., 28-29 (2003).
information under one component of an IEP that is already contained in another
component of the IEP. The committee also recognizes that section 617 requires
the Department of Education to develop a model IEP, suitable for adoption by a
State or LEA, which will accommodate the committee’s desire for a streamlined,
straightforward, expression of only the requirements mandated by this Act.
However, the committee does not intend to eliminate the requirement to27
individualize an IEP based on each child’s own unique needs.
The IEP Team. The IEP team is composed of the parents of a child with a
disability, one or more special education teachers, one or more regular education
teachers (if appropriate), and other LEA representatives (§614(d)(1)(B)).28 P.L. 108-
446 made additions and alterations to the IEP team requirements aimed at reducing
paperwork and other burdens of the IEP process.
P.L. 108-446 permits members of the IEP team to be excused from IEP
meetings if the parent and the LEA agree (§614(d)(1)(C)). If the meeting topic does
not deal with the member’s areas of concern, there are no further requirements. If the
meeting deals with the excused member’s areas, he or she must provide written input
to the parent and to the team. In all cases, the parent’s agreement or consent must be
obtained in writing. This provision was added to address the concern “that the
amount of time spent preparing for and attending IEP meetings, and the number of
individuals required to attend such meetings, reduces the amount of time that
personnel spend with students.”29 The change was described as a key provision that
“empowers parents to make important decisions about their child’s education, and
allows local educational agencies to better utilize their personnel who are not needed30
for a particular meeting.”
The IEP Process. IDEA requires that each LEA have an IEP for each child
with a disability in place at the beginning of the school year (§614(d)(2)(A)).
P.L. 108-446 added requirements for children who transfer from one school district
to another during the school year (§614(d)(2)(C)). For those children changing
districts within a state, the new LEA must provide “services comparable to those
described in the previous IEP” until it adopts the previous IEP or develops and
implements a new IEP. For children transferring between states, the new LEA must
also continue comparable services until it conducts an evaluation of the child (if the
LEA determines it to be necessary) and “develops a new IEP, if appropriate, that is
consistent with Federal and State law.” (§614(d)(2)(C)(i)) Both the old and new
schools are required to “take reasonable steps” to ensure that the child’s IEP,
supporting documentation, and other records are promptly transferred
27 Ibid, pp. 30-31.
28 For a child moving from the infants and toddlers program under Part C of IDEA,
P.L. 108-446 provides that a representative of the Part C program (such as the program
coordinator), at the parent’s request, be invited to the initial IEP meeting “to assist with the
smooth transition of services” (§614(d)(1)(D)).
29 S.Rept. 185, 108th Congress, 1st sess., 31 (2003).
30 H.Rept. 77, 108th Congress, 1st sess., 110 (2003).
The 2004 amendments to IDEA allow for certain other changes to the IEP to
reduce paperwork. If the parent and the LEA agree, changes to the IEP after the
annual IEP meeting may be made via a written document without holding an IEP
meeting (§614(d)(3)(D)). This change was made to eliminate the requirement of
reconvening an IEP team “which requires coordinating the schedules of a number of
people, and often forces a parent to take off work to attend.”31 The previous
requirement was seen as “so burdensome that often changes that could benefit a
student are simply not made.”32 In addition, LEAs are encouraged to consolidate
reevaluation meetings with IEP meetings for other purposes if possible
(§614(d)(3)(E)). This change, the Senate report notes, was made in order “to ease
time burdens for parents, school personnel, and related service providers.”33 Finally,
changes to the IEP may be made by amending it, rather than completely redrafting
the document (§614(d)(3)(F)).
P.L. 108-446 also permits alternatives to physical meetings, such as video
conferencing and conference telephone calls. These alternatives can take the place
of physical IEP meetings and administrative meetings related to procedural
safeguards under §615 (such as scheduling and exchange of witness lists) (§614(f)).
Multi-Year IEP Demonstration Pilot Program. P.L. 108-446 authorizes
a multi-year IEP demonstration program (§614(d)(5)). The Secretary of Education
is authorized to approve demonstration proposals from up to 15 states. These
demonstrations would allow parents and LEAs to adopt IEPs covering up to three
years that coincide with the child’s “natural transition points.”34 The multi-year IEPs
must be optional for parents and based on their informed consent. They must contain
measurable annual goals linked to natural transition points. The IEP team must
review the IEP at each transition point and annually to determine if progress is being
made toward annual goals. More frequent reviews are required if sufficient progress
is not being made. Beginning in 2006 and annually thereafter, the Secretary must
report on the effectiveness of the demonstration programs. These reports must
include a discussion of the effectiveness of the program and any specific
recommendations for broader implementation of the program including reducing the
paperwork burden on teachers, principals, administrators, and related service
The concept of a multi-year IEP was a controversial one during the 2004
reauthorization. The House bill would have allowed a three-year IEP, if the parents
agreed, while the Senate amendment would have also provided this option but
limited it to 18-year-old students who are still in the school system. The final
31 S.Rept. 185, 108th Congress, 1st sess., 32 (2003).
34 These transition points are defined to include: the transition “from preschool to
elementary grades, from elementary grades to middle or junior high school grades, from
middle or junior high school grades to secondary school grades, and from secondary school
grades to post-secondary activities, but in no case a period longer than 3 years”
version, described above, was agreed to in conference.35 The discussion of a multi-
year IEP in the House report emphasizes that “[m]any parents, teachers, and school
district officials have asked for greater flexibility in dealing with the paperwork
associated with the Act” and that “[t]he Committee is very interested in reducing the
paperwork burden on parents and teachers.”36
Procedural Safeguards Notice
The procedural safeguards notice requirements notify parents and children with
disabilities of their rights under IDEA. P.L. 108-446 amended previous requirements
to reduce the paperwork burden on schools. The new law requires that a copy of the
procedural safeguards available to the parents of a child with a disability shall be
given to the parents only one time a year except that a copy shall also be given upon
initial referral or parental request for evaluation, upon the first occurrence of the
filing of a complaint, and upon the request of a parent (§615(d)(1)). The description
of the contents of the procedural safeguards notice generally tracks previous law
except that there are additions relating to the opportunity to resolve complaints,
including the time period in which to make a complaint, the opportunity for the
agency to resolve the complaint, the availability of mediation, and the time period in
which to file civil actions (§615(d)(2)).37
Model Paperwork Forms
Under P.L. 108-446, the Secretary of Education is required to publish and
disseminate to states, LEAs, and parent and community training and information
centers four model forms: a model IEP form; a model individualized family service
plan (for infants and toddlers served under Part C of IDEA); a model form of the
notice of procedural safeguards; and a model form for the prior written notice
required prior to certain actions by the LEA (§617(e)). The Senate report describes
the need for these model forms.
The committee understands that the paperwork forms associated with the Act are
greatly varied from State to State and district to district. A standard IEP in one
State could be seven pages while in a neighboring State that same child’s IEP
would be eighteen pages. While some of this variance is related to State or local
policy, most of the differences relate to confusion regarding what the act
requires.... Each of these model forms will help inform local educational agency
efforts as they develop their own forms and will result in decreased paperwork
burdens while still ensuring that all of the requirements of the act are met.
35 H.Conf.Rept. 779, 108th Congress, 2nd sess., 209 (2004).
36 H.Rept. 77, 108th Congress, 1st sess., 111 (2003).
37 P.L. 108-446 also makes changes regarding the due process procedures, such as the
addition of statutes of limitations, in an attempt to limit litigation. It could be argued that
these changes may also serve to reduce paperwork. For a more complete discussion of these
issues see CRS Report RL32753, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):
Discipline Provisions in P.L. 108-446, by Nancy Lee Jones.