Individuals With Disabilities Education Act:

School Districts' Response to Regulatory Deadline

T-HEHS-98-156: Published: Apr 22, 1998. Publicly Released: Apr 22, 1998.

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GAO discussed its ongoing work on the impact of federal requirements on school districts, focusing on: (1) the school districts' response to the timeframe set out in the Department of Education's proposed regulations implementing changes to Individualized Education Programs (IEP).

GAO noted that: (1) during its interviews, school districts related three major concerns about the July 1, 1998, deadline: (a) confusion and uncertainty because school districts had to begin implementing the new IEP requirements without final federal and state regulations; (b) logistical challenges arising from the need to revise many IEPs within a short time period; and (c) concern about the quality of the IEP process if it was done in too much of a hurry; (2) more specifically, district officials with whom GAO spoke with expressed concern about developing and revising IEPs without the benefit of final federal and state guidance; (3) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Education oversees the states, who assume the major portion of responsibility for ensuring that school districts comply with the law's requirements; (4) in some states, the state Department of Education prescribes specific forms and procedures to be used in the development of IEPs; (5) because the state forms and procedures had not yet been revised to fully reflect the new requirements, some district officials expressed confusion over what they need to do; (6) in one state, state officials told GAO that some districts were waiting for final federal and state regulations to begin implementation; as a result, the districts may be unable to meet the prescribed deadline; (7) officials from several school districts GAO visited viewed the July 1 deadline as unreasonable because of logistical difficulties; (8) for example, one special education director from a rural school district GAO visited called the deadline a procedural nightmare; (9) he told GAO that he would have to put other tasks aside to schedule and attend numerous IEP meetings over the next few months, and expects the district's costs for substitute teachers to increase because teachers will have to be excused from classes to attend these meetings; (10) other district superintendents and special education directors echoed these concerns; (11) revising a large number of IEPS within a short timeframe also raises concerns about the quality of the IEP process; and (12) as the blueprint for addressing the educational needs of a child with a disability, the IEP can be crucial to the child's success.

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