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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Senate Passes the Special Education Bill

On Thursday May 13, the Senate passed S. 1248 -- a bill to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Senate worked hard, under the leadership of Senator Gregg (R-NH), as Chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Senator Kennedy (D-MA), as Ranking Minority Member, to develop a bipartisan bill. The bill passed the Senate in a 95-3 vote.

Unfortunately, the mandatory full funding amendment, proposed by Senators Harkin (D-IA) and Hagel (R-NE) -- that would have required funding for special education at the 40% level that Congress promised when they enacted IDEA -- failed in a close vote. Instead, the Senate adopted a competing amendment offered by Senator Gregg that would authorize $12.4 billion in fiscal year 2005 in discretionary funding for special education. The bill included several other amendments – an analysis of those amendments will be posted on the child and adolescent section of the NAMI web site at www.nami.org.

A House and Senate conference will now take place to reconcile the dramatic differences between the Senate bill (S. 1248) that just passed and the House bill (HR 1350) to reauthorize IDEA that passed on April 30, 2003.

NAMI strongly opposes HR 1350 because it threatens to erode critically important special education protections and the fundamental right of students with mental illnesses to receive a free and appropriate education.

NAMI will update advocates in the days ahead on our strategy moving forward, related to the conference committee process and reauthorization of IDEA. Action alerts will be sent to advocates.

Thank you to all the NAMI advocates who contacted their Congressional representatives to address concerns related to legislation to reauthorize our nation’s special education law.

May 14, 2004

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