Ed. Department Gives Primer on IDEA Regulations
After two days of carefully outlining changes in federal special education policy wrought by recently unveiled regulations, Department of Education officials last week acknowledged that they weren’t ready to give an audience of special educators what it wanted most: answers to hundreds of specific questions.
The Education Department’s office of special education programs planned its annual leadership conference to give school, district, and state special education officials a primer on the regulations covering the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law that governs the education of 6.7 million students in special education. The regulations were released Aug. 3 and were published in the Federal Register on Aug. 14. ("Final IDEA Regulations Clarify Key Issues," Aug. 9, 2006.)
But to provide more details, OSEP said it is taking the regulations on a road trip.
The department will hold three regional meetings devoted to implementation issues in January and February. In addition, the department plans eight informal public meetings around the country to introduce the regulations to the public.
The first of those public meetings will be held Sept. 26 in Charlotte, N.C., and Sept. 27 in Tampa, Fla. Additional gatherings will be held in Philadelphia, Seattle, Minneapolis, Dallas, Denver, and Sacramento, Calif., but the dates have not yet been set.
“It was an idea to reach a broader audience, to get out and get very personal,” Alexa Posny, the director of OSEP, said in an interview. “I’m hoping it’s community members who are there—people who would not ordinarily come to a conference like this.”
Also, OSEP unveiled a Web site, http://idea.ed.gov/, which officials say will be a frequently updated repository of information related to the IDEA regulations, including video interviews, question-and-answer sections, and links to government-funded agencies that provide technical assistance to schools, states, and parents.
Normally, the annual OSEP conference, which was held Aug. 28-30 this year, might focus on giving practical information to special educators, Ms. Posny said. But with the regulations released just two weeks before this year’s conference, she said, “this was a very intentional overview.”
Still, she wanted attendees to leave with the idea that the regulations have been made as user-friendly as possible, and that the Education Department considered all of the more than 5,500 public comments submitted in response to draft regulations.
“One comment from one person absolutely could have made a difference,” Ms. Posny said. “Every one of them was read, and every one of them was responded to.”
Another goal was to let state and local special education directors know there is nothing to fear in the new regulations, said Ms. Posny, a former deputy commissioner of education in Kansas. What special educators saw in the 2004 renewal of the IDEA and in the proposed regulations are in the final regulations, she said.