Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 Thesis

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Special Education

Until 1975, disabled children were segregated in public schools and did not enjoy equal access to the resources, activities, and curriculum offered to children without disabilities. The Civil Rights movement raised awareness about the rights of non-white minorities and women in the educational system. However, the Civil Rights movement was slower to embrace the constitutional rights of mentally and physically challenged children. The United States Rehabilitation Act was passed in 1973, one of the first significant pieces of legislation that addressed educational and workplace discrimination against disabled persons. The U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibited discrimination against the disabled in any federally funded institution including public schools. The 1973 legislation did not focus on educational issues or the needs of handicapped children. However, the 1973 Act established the groundwork for Public Law (PL) 94-142: the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 did address the needs of children with mental and physical disabilities. The Act expressly outlined core objectives including the guarantee for a "Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)" for all children with disabilities between the ages of 5 and 18, but extending in many cases to children younger than 5 and up to age 21. All special education services were to be provided at no cost to the parents, and paid for by federal funds. The Act was especially instrumental in guiding teachers and school administrators, and changed the role and status of disabled children in the classroom.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Thesis on Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 Assignment

According to the Act, all handicapped children shall be eligible for both regular and special education services depending on individual needs. In fact, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 established the now commonly used Individualized Education Program (IEP) for disabled children. Administrators and teachers were therefore prohibited to instruct all disabled children as if they were part of a monolithic group. The act helped eliminate stigma and stereotype in the classroom and demanded more individualized and respectful attention for each child. Furthermore, the IEP was far from arbitrary or based on subjective teacher observations. Instead, the Act set forth provisions that the IEP was to be "based on multi-disciplinary assessment and includes a statement of specific special education and related services to be provided to the child," ("Special Education Laws and Legislation"). The Education for All Handicapped Children Act also required that disabled students learn in a "least restrictive education (LRE)" environment rather than be automatically cordoned off. Finally, PL 94-142 provided a clause regarding the rights of parents. Parents have express rights protected by the Act including the right to participate in and object to any and all assessment methods, evaluations, or placement of their child. Parents are also guaranteed the right to appeal any decisions made by a school board.

The education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 was revolutionary because it was as much about funding allocation as it was about civil rights. The Act did not just transform school administration procedures and teaching methods but also had a strong bearing on education budgets. President Ford signed the Act but with several caveats and reservations, noting that "its good intentions could be thwarted by the many unwise provisions it contains," and that "the funding levels proposed in this bill will simply not be possible if Federal expenditures are to be brought under control." President Ford also claimed that PL 94-142 "contains a vast array of detailed, complex, and costly administrative requirements which would unnecessarily assert Federal control over traditional State and local government functions." Therefore, the Act was controversial and not without its opponents.

Worth claims that when the All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 was passed, the federal government "offered to pay up to 40% of the costs" of special education but have "averaged less than 10% ever since, and states don't make up the difference." Worth also claims that about $35 billion of federal funds is allocated toward special education, but that the funds are poorly managed and infringing on the rights of non-disabled children. Moreover, Worth points out that the Education for All Handicapped Children Act has been inequitably applied.

Before the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed, special education was mainly a private matter. Amendments to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act have been abundant, reflecting changes in attitudes and service delivery. For example, an amendment in 1986 (P.L. 99-457) included provisions for providing preschool (ages 3-5) children with disabilities a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The 1986 amendment also provided for an early intervention program (EIP) for infants and toddlers. An early intervention program ostensibly helps educators to craft the best possible IEP, and can also help diagnose and treat disabilities that respond well to early intervention. The 1986 amendments also allowed for an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) to encourage families to be involved in their child's progress.

In 1990, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The language of the 1975 Act was rewritten, substituting the phrase "handicapped child" for "child with disability," ("Special Education Laws and Legislation"). However, IDEA was much more than a rewritten PL 94-142. IDEA incorporated numerous major additions to the original Education for All Handicapped Children Act that makes IDEA deserving of its new moniker. For example, under IDEA children with autism and brain injuries are included in the funding eligibility, and assistive technologies are too. Furthermore, IDEA especially promoted inclusiveness as the pedagogical best practice.

Under the original Education for All Handicapped Children Act, inclusion was suggested and hinted at but not mandated; whereas inclusion is mandated "to the maximum extent appropriate" under IDEA ("Special Education Laws and Legislation"). Subsequent updates to IDEA in 1997 include provisions that all students with disabilities also have access to the general curriculum. The 1997 amendment also freed further funds for assistive devices and technologies.

Inclusive classrooms have probably been the most significant result of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 and IDEA. Far from hindering the rights of mainstream students, inclusive classrooms enhance the educational experience of all students as well as for teachers (Raschke & Bronson 1999).

Osgood (nd) credits the "national soul-searching" that started by the time Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka eliminated institutionalized race-based segregation in public schools for inspiring support for the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. During the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement provided the social foundation friendly for educational inclusiveness that transcended race to also include children with disabilities. Access to education and to the social capital that comes with it was increasingly framed in terms of social status. The disabled, stigmatized and ostracized, were systematically excluded from receiving a public education before the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed in 1975. Those who happened to be both poor and disabled suffered the most, as special education services prior to the passing of the Act were not federally funded. Research that linked "disability with poverty, cultural deprivation, and minority status substantially altered views on the etiology and diagnosis of disability, especially in the area of mental retardation," (Osgood 1999). Therefore, disability was being commonly framed as a social justice issue and not just as a health care one.

Osgood (1999) states that special education "evolved dramatically" during the 1960s in terms of "its number of programs offered and students served," but that not all students were served equally. Before disabled students were included in general education programs, they were taught in "overcrowded" institutions that were often cited for "cruel and inhumane" treatment of children (Osgood 1999). Educators largely gave up on disabled children, unable or unwilling to work with students on an individual basis or discover core strengths. The proponents of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act worked to apply a similar political and judicial argument that was used to eliminate race-based discrimination in public schools.

The International Council for Exceptional Children / Council for Exceptional Children (ICEC) was and remains one of the strongest advocacy groups lobbying for policy and legislative support for the disabled. The ICEC helped pass seminal public laws during the 1950s that helped influence the development of special education legislation. First, the ICEC helped pass PL 85-905, which authorized funds for captioned films for the deaf and also PL85-926, which increased funding for programs training teachers to work with children with mental retardation (Osgood 1999). Osgood (1999) also notes that the National Defense Education Act of 1958 offered "categorical support for education of the handicapped."

The 1960s and the Kennedy administration witnessed further evolution of special education programs. Kennedy's sister had been diagnosed with mental retardation, making the President especially sensitive to the needs of disabled children. Kennedy created a special Panel on Mental Retardation, which published the report a Proposed Program for National Action to Combat Mental Retardation, which outlined policy proposals. Proposals included increasing federal funding for education programs focusing on mentally disabled children. Kennedy's… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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