Future Reflections Winter 1986, Vol. 5 No. 1

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(Note: The following is reprinted from the Congressional Record Wednesday, September 25, 1985; Vol. 131, No. 122.)


Mr. WEICKER Mr. President, I send a resolution to the desk at this time for myself, Mr. Kerry, Mr. Stafford, Mr. Nickles, Mr. Thurmond, Mr. Simon, Mr. Kennedy, and Mr. Hatch.

The resolution commemorates the accomplishments of Public Law 94-142 on the 10th anniversary of its enactment. Cosponsored by all of the members of the Subcommittee on the Handicapped, this resolution reaffirms Congress' support for this landmark legislation that has opened the doors of public education to some 4 million handicapped children across the country.

In 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka, the Court held that education "is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." It was 20 years after that decision that Congress extended equal educational access to the handicapped children of our Nation. With the passage of 94-142 all handicapped children were assured a free appropriate public education, no matter what their disability, no matter how severe their disability. The significance of this mandate cannot be understated. With its passage, access to public education in this Nation became truly universal.

Just 10 years ago, many of the Nation's handicapped children had the doors of the schoolhouse closed to them. Thousands were shut away in institutions with no schooling. Those who did manage to enter the schoolhouse doors often found inadequate programs waiting for them. Public Law 94-142 opened those doors and today all handicapped children are entitled to a free appropriate public education. Today it is illegal for a school district to say "no" to a handicapped child. Today, parents are fully enfranchised partners with educational professionals in determining their child's program. As a parent of a handicapped child in special education, I can personally testify to the effectiveness of this partnership.

The impact of this legislation is impressive; 4,128,009 handicapped children were served under 94-142 last year; 465,763 education professionals were trained to work with handicapped students; and over 7.5 billion Federal dollars were appropriated in the last 10 years.

But these numbers do not tell the whole story. These numbers do not measure the true impact of this legislation. We must look at the change this legislation has fostered in all of us to see its most significant impact. Public Law 94-142 asks us to look at handicapped children in the same light that we see nonhandicapped children--as human beings with individual differences, unique needs and unique potentials. We do not have to look hard to see the payoffs of equal opportunity for handicapped students. The mentally retarded adolescent working in a cleaners after school; the wheelchair-bound athlete competing in a race; the deaf student attending college alongside his hearing peers; we are all richer for the accomplishments of disabled citizens.

While it is my prupose today to note the progress made over the last 10 years, we cannot forget that the accomplishments of this act are only possible because of a vigorous defense of this act. Congress and the American people have challenged to affirm support for Public Law 94-142 many times. When the Reagan administration proposed block granting 94-142, Congress said "no". When the Reagan administration proposed cutting funding for 94-142, Congress said "no". When the Reagan administration proposed gutting the 94-142 regulations, the American people said "no" with a voice that Congress heard loud and clear. Last July, after the Supreme Court's Smithe versus Rovinson decision, which undermined parents' full protection for the educational rights of their handicapped children, the Senate unanimously said "no" by passing the Handicapped Children's Protection Act, which reverses that decision.

We have also been able to make significant improvements in the programs authorized by the Education of the Handicapped Act. Both the Transitional Service Program, which assists handicapped youngsters leaving school in moving into the adult world, and the Parent Training Program, which advises parents of their rights under 94-142, are new programs added to the law in 1983. The $90 million increase in funding for specail educaiton programs, which we secured for the fiscal year 1986 budget, is a step forward as well.

We can all be proud of the improved programs and increased funding we have secured. But we must also affirm our commitment to continue the battles before us. What will the accomplishments be in the next 10 years of Public Law 94-142? Will we be celebrating defeats of block granting and flat funding, or will we be celebrating true movement forward? Let us hope we can report that all handicapped children are being served beginning at birth, rather than beginning at age 3. Let us be able to report that all handicapped youngsters who turn 21 and move into the adult world are working and living in their communities along with their nonhandicapped peers. Let us be able to report that the Federal Government has fulfilled its pormise and is funding 40 percent--rather than the current 7 1/2 percent--of the cost of special education.

I urge my colleagues to join me in cosponsoring this important resolution, and to reaffirm your support for this critical Federal program. I ask unanimous consent that the text of this resolution be printed in the RECORD. There being no objection, the resolution was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

S. CON. RES. 71 Whereas part B of the Education of the Handicapped Act, commonly known as Public Law 94-142 (The Education for All Handicapped Children Act), was signed into law ten years ago on November 29,1975

Whereas Public Law 94-142 established as policy for the United States of America the principle that all children, regardless of disabling condition, have the right to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive setting;

Whereas Public Law 94-142 currently serves over 4,000,000 handicapped children;

Whereas Public Law 94-142 ensures the full partnership between parents of children with disabilities and education professionals in design and implementation of the educational services to be provided handicapped children;

Whereas Public Law 94-142 has greatly enriched the classrooms of the Nation by allowing the potential of children with disabilities to be developed, together with the potential of nondisabled youngsters;

Whereas Public Law 94-142 has greatly enriched America's society as a whole by porviding the means for disabled youngsters to contribute to the social and economic progress of the United States; and

Whereas Public Law 94-142 has succeeded even beyond the expectations of congressional supporters in marshalling the resources of the Nation to fulfill the promise of full participation in society of disabled youngsters: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That the Congress--

(1) recognizes the 10th anniversary of the enactment of Public Law 94-142 and the successful implementation of that law;

(2) acknowledges the many and varied contributions by disabled younsters, parents, teachers, and administrators; and

(3) reaffirms its support for Public Law 94-142 and the primary goal of Public Law 94-142 that all children, regardless of disabling condition, have the right to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive setting.

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