On December 17, House Education and Workforce Chair John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chair Todd Rokita (R-IN) sent a letter to Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States at the General Accountability Office (GAO), requesting a report that will delve into special education paperwork issues.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), increased administrative burdens-combined with reduced staffing and funding levels-only result in reduced frequency and intensity of services to children with disabilities. This letter is a direct result of ASHA's advocacy efforts and is a critical first step in addressing administrative burdens reported by the professional association's school-based members.
Specifically, the GAO is being asked to address the following questions:
- What specific provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) generate the most significant paperwork burdens for states, school districts, elementary and secondary schools, administrators, educators, service providers, and parents?
- How do the administrative and paperwork requirements that have evolved since the law's enactment in 1975 improve educational outcomes for children with disabilities?
- Why have the U.S. Department of Education, states, school districts, and/or schools not utilized paperwork reduction provisions included in the 2004 reauthorization?
- How has the growth in and use of technology affected the administrative and paperwork burden? How pervasive are "electronic" Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and other innovative uses of technology? To what extent are these technologies interoperable? What can be expected in the future from technology?
- Outside of privacy protections afforded to students and parents under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, what, if any, administrative conflicts or redundancies exist that may increase the paperwork burden for schools and providers?
"ASHA appreciates the leadership of Chairmen Kline and Rokita in bringing this issue to the forefront," said ASHA's 2013 President Patricia A. Prelock, PhD, CCC-SLP. "We hope the GAO will identify ways to simplify administrative paperwork, while still ensuring students' ability to access services afforded to them under IDEA."
Paperwork has ranked as the number one challenge to school-based speech-language pathologists since ASHA has been surveying school-based members-nearly 10 years. In 2012, ASHA launched an effort to address this issue. Since then, ASHA has arranged focus groups, surveyed members, conducted targeted interviews of members familiar with the issue, convened a meeting of other groups and individuals concerned about special education documentation, and formed a working group representing a subset of these groups.
The GAO will now seek to respond to specific questions posed by Chairmen Kline and Rokita in their letter. The responses and recommendations from GAO will help guide ASHA's future advocacy efforts.
About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 166,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, speech, language, and hearing scientists, audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel, and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders. www.asha.org/.