|| Speeches and Testimony
Judith E. Heumann
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations
Fiscal Year 2001 Request for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research
March 16, 2000
Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:
I thank you for the opportunity to present and discuss the President's fiscal year 2001 budget request for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. This budget proposal, which includes increases for formula grant programs and targeted increases for discretionary programs, represents a significant national investment directed at enhancing education, employment, and independent living opportunities for millions of America's individuals with disabilities.
Over the past several years, with your help and that of the entire Congress, we have made great strides in the education and employment of people with disabilities. Together we have reauthorized the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), we have reauthorized the Rehabilitation Act as part of the Workforce Investment Act, and we have reauthorized the Assistive Technology Act. We have made important investments in the Special Education Grants to States program, the Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants program, and in other important areas such as early intervention, positive behavioral research, independent living, and assistive technology. Our investments are paying off. Our GPRA measures, which we have developed and refined over the past several years, are beginning to show positive trends. We know, for example, that more children with disabilities are being served in regular classrooms. We also know that the percentage of children with disabilities dropping out of school is decreasing while the percentage of those graduating with regular diplomas is increasing. In the Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants program, we have increased the number of individuals achieving employment outcomes by 15 percent over 5 years and have increased the employment outcomes for individuals with significant disabilities as a proportion of all individuals achieving employment outcomes.
Yet, as I appear before you today and look to the future, I know that there is much more to be done. We have recognized the need, but not entirely fulfilled the promise. Despite the unparalleled growth in the economy over the last several years, there has been relatively minor progress in reducing the unemployment rate of persons with disabilities. We know that children with disabilities still need more help than they currently receive during their early childhood and preschool years. Many students arrive at elementary school with developmental delays and behavioral difficulties that will greatly impede their chances for future academic success. Often their parents find it difficult to get the help they need to face these challenges, particularly in the early years of school. We also are aware that for many disabled individuals, independent living is still not a reality, but a distant dream because they lack the resources and supports they need to live fulfilling and successful lives in their communities. Finally, it is imperative that children and adults with disabilities share in the benefits of the exciting new technologies emerging from the current information technology revolution. If children and adults with disabilities do not have access to this emerging technology, they will be more likely to perform poorly in school, be unemployed or underemployed, and be more isolated in their communities.
The 2001 Budget Request
The budget that I present today focuses much-needed resources in many of these areas. Overall, the proposed budget of $9.3 billion represents an increase of $430 million, or 4.8 percent, over the fiscal year 2000 budget for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The request proposes significant increases in funding for Special Education and supports specific efforts to promote compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The proposed budget also includes increases for vocational rehabilitation as well as technology, research, and independent living activities.
The Administration's fiscal year 2001 request for Special Education is $6.37 billion or a 5.5 percent increase over the 2000 appropriation. The request includes a significant increase in funding for the Part B Grants to States program as well as increases for Grants for Infants and Families, State Improvement, Research and Innovation, Technical Assistance, and Parent Information Centers. We believe that the requested increases for these programs will greatly assist States in the delivery of early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities.
Grants to States: The Administration is requesting $5.28 billion, a $290 million or 5.8 percent increase, for Special Education Grants to States. At the requested level, the program will provide an average of $827 per child, an increase of 4 percent over the 2000 level. If approved, States will receive 13 percent of the national average per-pupil expenditure, or 11 percent of the excess cost of serving children with disabilities, from the Federal Government for educating children with disabilities. The increase provides additional resources to State and local educational agencies that they can use to improve services for children with disabilities by addressing deficiencies in such areas as placing children in the least restrictive environment and providing appropriate support services, qualified personnel, transition services, and related services such as speech, physical, and occupational therapy. These are all areas that our monitoring program indicates need improvement.
Grants for Infants and Families: The request includes an increase of $8.6 million for Grants for Infants and Families to help State and local agencies provide early intervention services to infants and toddlers birth through age 2, when intervention can be critical to improving results.
State Improvement: We are requesting $45.2 million for State Improvement grants, an increase of $10 million, or 28.4 percent, over the 2000 level. This request includes funds for new awards to an estimated 15 States and territories as well as sufficient funding to continue 28 existing awards to States. Resources made available through this program have the potential to make a significant positive difference in the education of children with disabilities. It is well-documented that teacher shortages and inadequately trained regular and special education teachers are among the most pressing and chronic problems facing the field. The State Improvement program is an excellent vehicle for addressing a States' needs in these important areas. With the requested increase, we would expand efforts to reform and improve State systems for providing educational, early intervention, and transition services to improve results for children with disabilities.
Research and Innovation: The President's 2001 budget includes a $10 million increase for Research and Innovation to support projects that demonstrate how effective interventions, coupled with early identification, can improve results for children with developmental delays in learning to read and who exhibit behaviors that have been found to lead to significant discipline problems or emotional disturbance as they get older. Research shows that early intervention is particularly effective for improving educational results for those children.
Technical Assistance and Dissemination: We know that helping States achieve compliance with the IDEA is critically important. Based on our monitoring efforts, and reports such as the recent National Council on Disability report on enforcement of IDEA, we believe that additional technical assistance resources are needed to help States achieve the goals of the program. The President's 2001 budget includes an $8 million increase for State Technical Assistance and Dissemination awards that will provide assistance to States in addressing their compliance deficiencies.
Parent Information Centers: We are asking for a much-needed increase for the Parent Information Centers program. As I have traveled the country and met with parents, I have become increasingly aware of the need for a greater commitment of resources in our Parent Information Centers program. Parents repeatedly tell me of the many problems and challenges they face in getting services for their children. These centers are a critical resource for them. They assist parents to become active participants in their children's education. Therefore, for fiscal year 2001, we are requesting $26 million, an increase of $7.5 million above the 2000 appropriation. The $7.5 million increase would be used to expand the size of the awards to existing parent information centers and establish new centers.
Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research
The Administration is requesting $2.8 billion, a $91.7 million increase, for the Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research account to increase employment and independent living opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The request includes funds to expand access to independent living centers and provides funds to support new initiatives focusing on information technology.
Vocational Rehabilitation: The Administration is requesting $2.4 billion for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) State Grants to assist State VR agencies to improve the employment outcomes of individuals with disabilities. The increase of $60.8 million, or 2.6 percent, is the amount needed to satisfy the statutory requirement to increase funding by at least the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index.
The Vocational Rehabilitation program has undergone significant changes that have presented new challenges to State VR agencies. Changes in the eligibility process have increased the number of eligible individuals in the VR system -- 1.2 million -- and the percentage of individuals with significant disabilities served by the system -- 82 percent. Despite this challenge, the program is assisting greater numbers of individuals to achieve their employment goals. In 1998, VR agencies assisted 223,668 individuals to achieve an employment outcome, 83 percent of whom were individuals with significant disabilities. This number represents 62 percent of all individuals exiting the program after receiving VR services. Our goal is to continue to improve both the number and quality of these outcomes. The longitudinal study we have been conducting is providing very useful information that will help us work toward achieve these goals.
In addition, the Workforce Investment Act and the Work Incentive Improvement Act present new opportunities that challenge VR programs, other employment and training programs, and disability beneficiary programs to develop strategies to more effectively serve all individuals with disabilities and remove barriers to employment.
Independent Living: Independent living programs facilitate the integration and participation of individuals with significant disabilities in all aspects of our society. Centers for Independent Living (CILs) assist these individuals to achieve consumer-determined independent living goals that allow them to remain in their own communities and to pursue education and employment opportunities. The budget includes a request of $58 million for the CILs, a 20.8 percent or $10 million increase over the 2000 level. This increase would provide support for the establishment of 56 new CILs in 23 States and would bring us closer to our goal of providing access to independent living services to all areas of the country. Currently, residents of 40 percent of the Nation's counties, particularly those in rural areas, lack basic access to CILs.
Disability Research and Assistive Technology: Our request in the areas of Disability Research and Assistive Technology includes funds to support new initiatives that improve access to assistive technology, including information and communication technology, that can increase education and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The $100 million request for the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), $13.5 million above the 2000 level, will enable NIDRR to launch new initiatives that will improve access to information and communication technology in the areas of education, employment, and community independence. These new initiatives include the following: (1) $5 million to provide technical assistance and training to schools and colleges serving students with disabilities; (2) $3.1 million to carry out research, training, and technical assistance to enhance the access and use of technology to increase employment opportunities, including self-employment; and (3) $5.4 million to examine how information and assistive technology can be used to enhance community integration and participation by individuals with disabilities across the lifespan.
For Assistive Technology, the Department requests $41.1 million, an increase of $7.1 million above the 2000 appropriation. This request includes $15 million for grants to States to establish or maintain alternative loan financing programs. Currently, major service programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, special education, and vocational rehabilitation cannot meet the growing demand for assistive technology. Loan programs offer individuals with disabilities attractive options that significantly enhance their access to assistive technology.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, we believe that this budget request is an important step forward in our continuing efforts to improve the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities and their families. The President has often spoken about the need for our Nation to invest in its people. Investing in our Nation's disabled children and adults is vital. We must all work together to support programs and services that will enable people with disabilities to obtain an education, to find meaningful work, and to lead fulfilling and independent lives -- in short, to share in the American dream.
I ask your support for this budget proposal. My colleagues and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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Last Updated -- [3/16/2000] (mjj)