Fixing Special Ed, Part 6:
Special-ed has a fundamental problem: Government rigidity blocks innovation
Leaves school administrators stuck within
a system-corrupting dilemma: kids vs costs
When Congress in 1975 passed into law the legislation now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the bipartisan majorities were overwhelming.
In the U.S. Senate, the vote was 87 to 7. And in the House of Representatives, it was 404 to 7.
Nevertheless, the law, in truth, constituted only a first stab at solving a nationwide problem that had long bedeviled America’s conscience — namely, that public schools all across the country continued to routinely and thoughtlessly exclude handicapped kids.
What had happened by 1975, however, was that further dithering was no longer politically possible.
Federal courts were compelling states to address the issue, disabled children’s parents and advocates were becoming politically formidable, and everyone in Congress — especially following the seamy Watergate revelations of 1974 — was eager to appear before voters as high-minded and compassionate.
Yet the fact remained that the “Education for All Handicapped Children Act,” as the law was known at the time, was largely untested and experimental.