I don't know if people saw this op ed piece. Sounds good to me! Now let's have Congress do something about it. Also, I have been thinking that it would be good to take a bit of time at our first meeting and give our new members a bit of an orientation to our issues and how the board works. We should talk about governance; the assessment issue and what is happening; budgets, bills and how the business office works for us; and what new members as well as old members might like to work on. What do you think of that idea? Is the first meeting the 13th? See you soon. Karen B. Horn Director, Legislative and Membership Services -----Original Message----- From: [log in to unmask] [mailto:[log in to unmask]] Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2001 8:34 AM To: [log in to unmask]; [log in to unmask] Subject: Re: Special Education OpEd Op Ed as promised...Jolinda Fully Fund Special Education By Senator Jim Jeffords I have always subscribed to former House Speaker Tip O'Neil's philosophy that, "all politics is local," and I believe that the best barometer of burning political issues in America is found not in Gallup polls but in conversations with constituents and with local lawmakers. On February 20th, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier. I value this yearly visit as an opportunity to hear what Vermont legislators need from their U.S. Senator, and to share with State Representatives and Senators my ideas about what we hope to accomplish in Washington, D.C. for Vermont. This year was no different. As I walked the halls of the Statehouse, I exchanged ideas and listened to the concerns of my fellow Vermonters. The one message conveyed to me throughout the day, from Republicans and Democrats alike, was not about tax cuts or Presidential pardons or defense spending. Vermonters, regardless of party, are concerned about special education funding. In 1975, Congress passed Public Law 94-142, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which rightly guaranteed all children with disabilities a "free and appropriate public education." But we all know that education itself is not free so the federal government promised it would contribute 40 percent of the costs of special education. As a freshman Congressman, I was proud to help write that legislation along with then Vermont Senator Bob Stafford. Now, over 25 years later, the federal government's promise to fund its share of the cost of special education services has unfortunately gone unfulfilled. The majority of the funding for special education for 8,000 Vermont students and 6.1 million students across the country, currently comes from local school budgets. The federal government's contribution is just under 15 percent of these costs, leaving the balance of the federal obligation to state and local governments. We committed to 40 percent in 1975. After 25 years, we have appropriated just under 15 percent. As I have said many times, it's time to deliver on the missing 25 percent. We have made progress since I became Chairman of the Senate Health and Education Committee, with federal funding for special education increasing by 174 percent. Vermont's federal allotment has increased from $4.5 million in 1996 to $13.2 million in 2001. Yet, we are still far short of our goal. The current total for special education funding is at $7.1 billion. To fully fund our obligation, we need to commit about $16 billion annually. With countless other federal programs and departments competing for a greater piece of the federal pie, this is no easy task. It's difficult explaining the complexities of special education funding in a thirty-second sound bit. But it's the right thing to do and there is no higher claim than special education funding. This year, I intend to introduce legislation that will boost federal special education funding by $2.5 billion each year until 2007, at which time we will have reached our 40 percent commitment. Last year, I sponsored a similar amendment, which was defeated by only three votes. With the support of my colleagues and organizations like the National School Boards Association, the National Governor's Association, and the Council for Exceptional Children, I am hopeful that this year we will finally succeed. We must succeed, for the sake of students, parents, teachers, taxpayers and communities across the nation. I recently read an article regarding the Rumney Memorial School in Middlesex. On Town Meeting Day, Middlesex voters will decide on a budget that is 7.5 percent higher than last year's budget. Principal Dan Ryan stated that special education accounted for more than one-third of the overall budget increase. This story could be told at schools throughout the state. Principal Ryan, and a majority of Vermont educators, are committed to educating students with special needs. But they're frustrated by the increasing costs and they need federal help. I've heard the cry for help, at my visit to the Statehouse, and in my travels throughout our great state, and I am sounding that cry in Washington, D.C. It's time to relieve the financial burden weighing down local school districts. It is time to keep our promise. It's time to fully fund special education.