Pembroke, NH – During a visit with parents, students and teachers at Three Rivers Middle School today, Vice President Al Gore outlined new steps to help states and school districts provide high quality education for all students, including students with disabilities.
“We must maintain and honor our commitment to providing all our children -- including those with disabilities – a high-quality education,” said Vice President Al Gore.
“This nation should be proud that we have opened the doors of public schools to millions of disabled children, and we must continue to remain committed to providing quality education to all of our children. As President, I will remain unalterably supportive of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in order to maintain this fundamental commitment.”
Al Gore emphasized the importance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures that children with disabilities have access to a free appropriate education and has opened the doors of public schools to children with special needs. Gore announced that he will take the following steps as President to ensure that schools get the support they need to provide quality special education services while also investing in the needs of all children:
Vice President Al Gore also remains committed to helping communities make full use of the 1997 IDEA reauthorization to reduce unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy, while fully addressing the educational needs of children with disabilities.
- Ensure that the federal government helps local school districts by paying its fair share of special education costs.
Gore embraced IDEA, while maintaining his commitment to a balanced budget and making needed investments to strengthen public schools for all children. Gore pledged that his first budget would include an important down payment toward that goal -- the largest-ever federal funding increase in this program, and that he would veto any spending plan that does not include funding to help communities provide a quality public education to all children, including those with disabilities. Al Gore emphasized that we must do this while being fiscally responsible and investing in – rather than shortchanging – other education investments like class size and after school programs.
- Defray local school district expenses to educate students with very high-cost special needs.
Gore pledged to work with states to establish or expand funding pools to which school districts could apply to help cover the costs of educating the relatively few children with disabilities requiring extraordinarily expensive services to attend local public schools. These funding pools would be funded under the IDEA and would be managed by states. These funding pools would help school districts – especially smaller ones – whose regular education budgets or local resources could be imperiled by the exorbitant cost of educating one or a few children with very high-cost special needs.
- Fund early identification and intervention efforts.
Gore proposed an early identification and intervention fund that would reduce the long term costs of special education by helping school districts adopt proven methods of identifying and assisting children with reading or behavioral problems in kindergarten or 1st grade. Coupled with the universally available preschool and smaller class sizes the Vice President has proposed, this plan will help teachers give students the help they need to succeed early on, and avoid referring them for unnecessary special education services later.
- Support teacher training to help all teachers learn how to effectively meet the needs of children with disabilities.
A very high percentage of students with disabilities spend much of their day in regular classrooms, and training both special education and regular teachers to address the needs of these students will ensures a better education for all our children.
“I want to bring about change that works for teachers, parents, and all our nation’s children – rich or poor, of any race or ethnicity, with or without a disability,” said Vice President Al Gore, “and I will fight to make sure each and every child receives the quality education they deserve.”
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