A Lesson in Special Education From Chairman John Kline

Spending $2,806,110 for his re-election by simply repeating, “At a time when Washington is gridlocked, John Kline is working with Democrats and Republicans to get things done for Minnesota families”, Minnesota Second District constituents expected to see the solutions when bipartisanship seem to be evident.

One subject that John Kline has heard about for over a decade — from those in the Second District as well as nationwide —

After all, who could forget John Kline’s September 30, 2009 OpEd

A promise made to our children should be a promise kept

Since being elected to Congress in 2002, I have focused my attention on ensuring the federal government keeps its financial commitments to our nation’s schools and removing some of the most burdensome requirements that come from Washington.

I strongly believe Congress can and should provide the funding schools were promised under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — or IDEA.

For almost seven years I have worked to persuade my colleagues to keep their promise to our nation’s schools, and I will continue my fight as the senior Republican on the Education and Labor Committee.

So when Congressmen Chris Gibson (R-NY), Jared Huffman (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV), Dave Reichert (R-WA) Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tim Walz (D-MN), introduced the bipartisan H.R. 551 IDEA Full Funding Act and had it assigned to Chairman Kline’s committee, one would think it would get a quick hearing and a vote.

But no … Chairman Kline instead wielded his gavel to “mark-up” (without a hearing in which the dozen new committee members could review the issue) H.R. 5 Student Success Act.
Chairman Kline preaches that H.R. 5 will give the States the flexibility they need … and this is causing a great concern by various groups … such as the Education Task Force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

The Education Task Force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) wrote Chairman Kline

The Student Success Act does not fully support students with disabilities and in fact, it creates incentives for schools and districts to take students with disabilities, unchecked, off track from having equitable access to and achieving a regular high school diploma.

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc explains that Chairman Kline’s Student Success Act would allow States and school districts to officially marginalize every student with a disability.

The current law ensures that students with disabilities learn at grade level. The law also is designed to ensure when students fall behind that schools must give them the extra support they need. Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are supposed to take an alternate assessment on alternate achievement standards. The law allows this alternate assessment for up to 1% of all students (10% of students with disabilities).
But H.R. 5 bill would change all of this. It would allow schools to give as many students as they wish the alternate assessments by lifting the 1% cap.
It would also allow states to create other alternative assessments with few conditions. Under H.R. 5 no one would be accountable for making sure that students actually learn what they need to graduate and succeed. If a child struggles to read, the school could simply use an alternate achievement standard–rather than provide the extra assistance he needs to learn to read at grade level.
And if children cannot read, they cannot succeed.

So when Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) offered an amendment which included increase funding for IDEA, Chairman Kline and the other Republicans voted NO. Seems that Republicans were more interested in an amendment offered by Representative Luke Messer (R-IN) to allow Title I funds to pay for private school tuition, effectively creating a federal school voucher program.

Hmmmm … seems the answer is the same whether the question is to embrace a bipartisan effort to increase Special Education funding by explicit legislation or through the amendment process.
John Kline proves that one thing he is good at is issuing OpEds and campaign commercials that are sure to appease Minnesota voters and then wields the gavel rejecting those views.

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