On Wednesday, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), along with Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and George Miller (D-Calif.), announced a sweeping bipartisan, bicameral deal that was long in the making. The bill aims to modernize the 1998 law, which oversees $3 billion in job training programs, by eliminating 15 programs and creating universal performance metrics. Many expect it to advance.
For students with special needs in particular, the bill aims to make states more responsible for making sure those students graduate into jobs that allow them to make minimum wage and work alongside adults who have no disabilities. This move extends the often-controversial concept of inclusion in public schools into the workforce. Under the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, another Harkin initiative [sic], students with special needs must be given a "free and appropriate public education" in the "least restrictive environment."
But unlike IDEA, which covers students with special needs until they turn 21, workforce training programs for individuals with disabilities aren't entitlements, meaning that there are far more students who are eligible than receive the service, known as Vocational Rehabilitation.