News-in-Brief – March 2010

Noise on ESEA Reauthorization Increases

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind) was slated for reauthorization by Congress in 2007. An unsuccessful attempt to introduce legislation that year pushed back consideration of this important law, and Congress is just now starting hearings and a review of the current law. To move the process forward, in February Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee announced their desire to have bipartisan reform of ESEA.

Chairman Miller (D-CA), ranking member Kline (R-MN), chairman of the subcommittee on elementary and secondary education Rep. Kildee (D-MI), and the senior Republican on that subcommittee Rep. Castle (R-DE) issued a joint statement announcing a “bipartisan, open and transparent effort to rewrite No Child Left Behind – a law that we agree is in need of major reform.” At the same time they announced a series of hearings and also asked groups to submit comments and suggestions on the reauthorization by March 26. The Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee also has begun a series of hearings, although they have not yet set a deadline for submission of recommendations. LDA has reviewed the comments previously submitted to both Senate and House committees and will be sharing and discussing those recommendations again with committee staff.

Kline Pushes for More IDEA Funding

In early March U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared before the House Education and Labor Committee to talk about the Administration’s education agenda, including the president’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2011. Ranking Republican member of the committee John Kline (MN) challenged Duncan on the small funding increase in the proposed budget for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). He quoted another member’s characterization of the proposed $225 million increase in IDEA State grants as “budget dust.” Another committee member Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) echoed Mr. Kline’s concern that federal funding continues to fall far short of the promised 40 percent. This issue will be debated more fully during the appropriations process.

FEA Hosts Forum on Diverse Learners

The Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) is hosting a series of forums in Washington, DC, to examine critical issues facing Congress as they reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind). FEA is one of the many national coalitions in which LDA participates actively (See June 2009 LDA News in Brieffor more information on FEA, or  visit theFEA website). On April 15 FEA will host Rethinking ESEA: Improving Results for Diverse Learners, and LDA Policy Director Myrna Mandlawitz is co-chairing the event. Attendees will hear from Dr. Douglas Fuchs, professor of special education at Vanderbilt University and a member of the LDA Professional Advisory Board, and Dr. James Lyons, Legislative and Policy Counsel for the Alliance for Multilingual, Multicultural Education.

ESEA currently targets four key subgroups for which outcomes continue to be poor, including these two populations of students. Fuchs and Lyons, important researchers in their respective fields, will look at what they think is working in ESEA for students with disabilities and English language learners and what needs to be changed. Senate and House education staff members and national education advocates will have the opportunity to engage these experts to determine how the reauthorization of ESEA can reflect the latest research to improve educational results for these students.

New Report Highlights Toxic Chemical Link and Learning Disabilities

The Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition recently released a report highlighting scientific studies linking toxic chemical exposure to an increase in chronic diseases, including learning and developmental disorders. Maureen Swanson, director of the LDA Healthy Children Project and the LDA representative in the coalition, has stated in the press, “A lot of diseases are linked in part to the toxic chemicals that saturate our everyday lives. With an updated toxic chemical law we could all be healthier and wealthier.” Swanson notes scientific studies now show levels of toxic chemical exposure once believed safe can have harmful health effects. The report notes that reforming federal policy would result in reducing the contribution of toxic chemical exposures to chronic diseases, as well as a reduction in annual health care costs of an estimated $5 billion. Learn more about the study – Mind Disrupted: How Toxic Chemicals May Change How We Think and Who We Are.

New York Times Runs a Series of Articles on Learning Disabilities

For Parents!! Search the New York Times website for recent articles with quotes from LDA President Pat Lillie and information on resources for parents, identification of specific learning disabilities, and getting help for your child from the school system.

Resources for Parents of Students With Learning Disabilities – Parents should do their homework so they can contribute to an individualized learning plan for a student with a learning disability. Many organizations and government agencies help parents to understand and use the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Nudging Schools to Help Students With Learning Disabilities – Federal law says schools must provide an appropriate education for all children with learning disabilities, but parents can help by becoming advocates and experts.

Testing a Child for Learning Disabilities – Lesley Alderman explores the financial implications of a child’s learning disabilities. Parents who are aware of the available resources have a better chance of getting help for a learning-disabled child.

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