In these current times of implementing education reforms in the United States of America, I sometimes look back on the legacy of federal education laws. Yet, one in particular, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, has garnered my recent attention because of a handful rumors of its repeal from its federal law status, and thus states of the union would be left to abide by the original regulations, their own personal implementations to it in their state constitutions, or to further repeal it from state law and leave it to local. The consequences of a such a federal action could be dire to children across the United States of America.
It should be noted that in a country that prides itself on education for all of the citizens, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was the law the finally mandated that children with disabilities would get an education alongside everyone else. This was enacted only forty years ago and was one of the major successes of the Civil Rights Era when it was passed as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.
For more than more than forty years IDEA has begun programs for students with disabilities, as well as a continuous Kickstarter for research into how to better teach all students in the public schools as inclusivity became a part of the educational cultural landscape. The federal law affects children, even before elementary, as protocols are in place to investigate and diagnose possible disabilities they might have. Plans are put in place with the intent of improving the years of education for those students through their Individualized Education Program, or IEP. This aspect of IDEA might be the paramount example of how children’s lives are affected by the law, as they get regularity check-ups on their accomplishments and needs in the school system, and the needed aides to apply for further educational goals within the public education system.
Even though many states have tried to further improve upon this federal law for the school life of the children in their states, such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, those policies have been built upon the policies of the Individuals with Disabilities Act as a federal law. If the enforcement of the funding, regulations, and accountability are repealed then the burden would fall on state agencies. Yet, even more detrimental, is the loss of the already underfunded federal contributions. If states are already struggling to fund their own current state education programs, then they may not desire to put another burden on their local school systems.
Evidently, this federal law is a matter of jeopardy that ties into one of the central tenets that citizens of the United States believe in, and that is free and appropriate public education for with all children. One of the founding fathers of this American ideal, Horace Mann, stated all the way back in one of his 1848 reports on the Massachusetts School Board, that:
“Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the
conditions of men–the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”
Almost two centuries later, the citizens of this country can still heed the advice of one of the founding fathers of American Education. However, it the willingness of the American people that furthers this reality.
If education is what provides equity amongst people, then it is the Individuals with Disabilities Educations Act that delivers equality to those most vulnerable. And, for the sake of the future of education for all Americans, the current generations should uphold the civil rights for education for all of those to come after by preventing any repeal of the imperative federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.