Think tanks wrap-up

July 10, 2002 at 5:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 10 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering brief opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks.

The Cato Institute

WASHINGTON -- Commission report boosts choice, falls short on deregulation: Report of the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education encourages states to consider school choice, but Cato study shows deregulation is also needed

The President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education released its long-awaited report this week, recommending reforms of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. While the 89-page report focuses primarily on new federal accountability standards and early intervention, it also recommends that the federal government allow states the flexibility to create school choice programs for special needs children.

Unfortunately, the commission fails to recommend the meaningful regulatory relief that effective state reform would require.

In "Escaping IDEA: Freeing Parents, Teachers and Students Through Deregulation and Choice," Cato scholars Marie Gryphon and David Salisbury show that relief from burdensome federal regulations is a necessary ingredient in state special education reform.

"Deregulation and choice are two sides of the coin of meaningful special education reform," Gryphon and Salisbury emphasize. "One without the other won't solve IDEA's worst problems.

"Special education in America is now held hostage to a federally mandated dispute resolution model for determining each child's educational program. This model wastes precious educational resources and harms relationships between parents and teachers. Unfortunately, the commission wants to preserve IDEA's basic regulatory structure, a structure that has failed parents and children," said Gryphon and Salisbury.

"Moreover, current federal regulations are so arcane and complicated that it is virtually impossible for states to be in compliance," Gryphon and Salisbury explained. "Congress should amend IDEA to allow states to opt into a reformed special education system, which would eliminate the failed dispute resolution model entirely in favor of a state-administered, largely state-funded system based on parental choice," the authors said.

"The president's commission should be applauded for looking seriously at state-based school choice alternatives for special education. However, for school choice to be effective, states need far more regulatory relief than the commission has recommended," Gryphon and Salisbury concluded.

The report is available as Policy Analysis no. 444 on the Cato Institute website at

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