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
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Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2001 8:34 AM
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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
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
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
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.