Delaware legislators again target special education

     Attorney General Matt Denn (center) poses with members of the IEP Improvement Task Force (Photo courtesy of the Delaware Department of Justice).

    Attorney General Matt Denn (center) poses with members of the IEP Improvement Task Force (Photo courtesy of the Delaware Department of Justice).

    A bill introduced Monday would demystify the process Delaware students go through to receive special education services, according to its sponsors.

    The bill comes less than a week after the introduction of a separate measure intended to expand special education offerings in the state.

    Monday’s legislation promises to make the IEP process easier to navigate for parents while making sure schools and districts play by the rules. For special needs students, an IEP–short for Individualized Education Program–determines what services the state must provide him or her.

    “This legislation will improve the ability of parents and students to have input and assert themselves in the IEP process,” said Attorney General Matt Denn in a statement. Denn served on the legislative task force whose recommendations led to the new bill.

    The bill’s sponsors include Senators Nicole Poore, D-Bear, and David Lawson, R-Marydel, and Representatives Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, Joseph Miro, R-Pike Creek, and Deborah Hudson, R-Fairthorne.

    States receiving federal money through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act must provide a “free appropriate education” for students with special needs. There are various stipulations that attempt to  define what constitutes a “free appropriate education.” Monday’s bill does not seek to further clarify the standards Delaware must meet, but instead looks at the way in which the state determines who qualifies for what services.

    The legislation will, according to a release, create parent councils to support those going through the IEP process, protect teachers who offer candid assessments of their students’ abilities, and ask for regular input from parents and students about the effectiveness of the IEP process. The bill’s sponsors also singled out charter schools, saying their measure will make charters “more attentive to their responsibilities” when it comes to students with special needs.

     The recent flurry of legislation comes less than a year after the U.S. Department of Education called out Delaware and two other states for coming up short on special education.

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