Inside: Washington

REVISED IDEA IS APPROVED

Congress has approved a reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the first major revision in seven years of the law that governs special education in U.S. schools.

The changes to the law are not as drastic as ones included in a House proposal earlier this year. According to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the bill includes reforms recommended in 2002 by President Bush's special-education commission as well as key elements of the Senate's version of the reauthorization bill.

The American Association of School Administrators says the bill will streamline local disciplinary procedures; allow local districts to reclaim their share of special-education dollars as the federal government increases its funding commitment; reduce the time and complexity needed to create Individual Education Plans; make the due process less adversarial for parents and school officials; and ensure that federal dollars for IDEA are directed to local schools and not diverted for other state purposes.

LAW GIVES D.C. CHARTERS PROPERTY PRICE BREAK

President Bush has signed an appropriations bill for Washington, D.C., that requires the city to offer surplus school property to charter schools for at least 25 percent less than its appraised value.

Previous legislation had stated that charter schools were to be given a “preference” when surplus property became available.

“The preference, interpreted as a mere discount by the administration and yielding very few properties over the years, now becomes a right of first offer,” says Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), a charter advocacy group that lobbied for the revision.

“Under the amendment,” FOCUS says, “charter schools must be given the right to lease or purchase a surplus property for at least 25 percent less than its appraised value, and, if it is to be leased, must be offered a lease of at least 25 years that is renewable for an unlimited number of 25-year terms.”

According to FOCUS, many D.C. public charter schools have been unable to open for a year or more because of facilities problems. Others have been forced to open in temporary or otherwise unsuitable facilities.

BUSH TAPS AIDE FOR EDUCATION POST

Margaret Spellings, President George W. Bush's chief domestic policy adviser, has been selected to succeed fellow Texan Rod Paige as U.S. Secretary of Education.

Spellings served as chief education adviser for Bush when he was governor of Texas. Prior to that, she had been a lobbyist for the Texas Association of School Boards. As domestic policy adviser, she has been credited with helping to craft the “No Child Left Behind” education reform law.

“In Margaret Spellings, America's children, teachers and parents will have a principled, determined ally in my Cabinet,” says Bush. “Margaret Spellings and I are determined to extend the high standards and accountability measures of the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ to all of America's public high schools.”

Spellings will be the eighth education secretary since Congress created the cabinet-level department 25 years ago.

“I commit to work alongside America's educators and my new colleagues at the Department of Education to make our schools the finest in the world,” says Spellings.

PREVIOUS EDUCATION SECRETARIES

Shirley Hufstedler 1980-81
Terrell Bell 1981-85
William Bennett 1985-88
Lauro Cavazos 1988-90
Lamar Alexander 1990-93
Richard Riley 1993-2001
Rod Paige 2001-present
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