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Today a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was introduced by Senator Gregg and Senator Kennedy.

As a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I have worked closely with them to craft a bill that meets the highest priority of protecting the right of children with disabilities to a free, appropriate public education. I will continue to work to improve this bill in the months to come.

I am proud that this bill includes my proposal to give fiscal relief to districts struggling with the cost of educating the small number of children who need extremely high-cost services.

I am also pleased that the bill includes a $50 million grant program I authored that provides funding for behavioral supports in schools, and for high-quality interim alternative placements.

Other important improvements in the bipartisan bill include:

- Greater authority and new tools for the U.S. Department of Education and state education agencies to implement, monitor and enforce the law using performance data;

- A new requirement that, when appropriate, Individual Education Plans (IEP) contain positive behavioral interventions and supports for a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others;

- An improved IEP process that allows the flexibility to make minor changes to the IEP without convening an IEP meeting or to use technology to participate in IEP meetings;

- A better transition process which offers greater access to the Vocational Rehabilitation system and the option to develop a 3-year IEP for students ages 18 to 21, to focus parents and schools on long-term goals for successful transition to post-secondary activities;

- Two new grant programs to enhance support and training for special educators, general educators, principals and administrators; and

- Efforts to reduce paperwork, such as model forms from the U.S. Department of Education, fewer required notices and clarification of federal requirements.

At this time, I have enough ongoing concerns that I do not plan to cosponsor this bill. Most importantly among those, this bill does not include mandatory full funding of IDEA. However, I believe the Senate bill is significantly better than the reauthorization bill passed by the House of Representatives. Among other things, this bill maintains the requirement that schools provide quarterly reports to parents on their child’s progress toward meeting IEP goals, and that schools determine the role a child’s disability played in his or her behavior when considering disciplinary action.

A bipartisan bill involves difficult compromises on both sides, and this one is no exception, but I am confident that the bill introduced today will advance education for children with disabilities. I look forward to working with my colleagues to further improve this bill as it moves through the legislative process.