In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the red tape that pervades all aspects of the issue, from special education to insurance to health care.
The Government Accountability Office reports that the US Department of Education tried pilot projects to reduce paperwork in special education. But states have been reluctant to take part -- because the pilot projects involve too much paperwork.
Despite Education’s efforts, no state applied to participate in either of the pilot programs. NASDSE [National Association of State Directors of Special Education] officials told us that the application requirements were much too resource-intensive for the potential value they would bring, and implementation of either pilot program would most likely require require additional staff that federal funding would not cover. Several states wrote letters to Education explaining their reasons for not applying for and implementing the Paperwork Waiver Program in particular, noting that the program would require more paperwork and staff, but provide little in the way of additional federal funds. For example, New York’s letter listed as key reasons for not participating the extensive requirements for participation, limited funding for the pilots, and the staff commitment necessary for both development of the proposals and ongoing oversight of the pilot projects. In a similar letter, Rhode Island noted that implementing the Paperwork Waiver Program would likely result in more paperwork—not less—as well as taking more time from staff.A summary of the report:
In response to the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—the primary federal law governing education of children with disabilities—the Department of Education (Education) attempted to reduce administrative burden by creating pilot programs and publishing model paperwork forms, but states have used these tools sparingly. Specifically, Education created pilot programs allowing states to use multi-year rather than annual individualized education programs (IEP) to describe services to meet each student’s needs, and to waive certain federal paperwork requirements. However, no state applied for these pilots, citing a perceived lack of benefit, and inadequate funding to implement and evaluate the pilots. As required by law, Education also published templates, known as model forms, to help states streamline the process of preparing IEPs and comply with parent notice requirements in IDEA. Although some states and school districts adopted at least one of these model forms, they have used others primarily as a starting point to develop their own forms. State and district officials told GAO this allowed them to meet federal as well as state and local requirements, and provided better protection against potential litigation. Stakeholders were mixed in their views about the effects of other provisions intended to reduce administrative burden. For example, several stakeholders viewed a provision allowing states to use more grant funds for paperwork reduction activities as helpful; others said the effect of a provision eliminating benchmarks and short-term objectives for IEPs was largely negligible.
Stakeholders across 9 focus groups—3 each with state administrators, local administrators, and educators—said that state-imposed requirements contribute to the administrative and paperwork burden, but their views on the burdens and benefits of federal IDEA requirements varied somewhat. For example, in focus groups, educators expressed concerns about monitoring and documenting student progress, while local and state administrators expressed concerns, respectively, about IEP implementation and federal reporting requirements. Consistent with prior research, many educators in these focus groups estimated they spend roughly one to two hours daily on administrative tasks, and expressed concern about this taking time away from the classroom. Despite perceived burdens, stakeholders widely acknowledged that IDEA’s requirements play an important role in accountability. For example, educators said the requirements provide information about student strengths and limitations that help them assist the student, while state administrators said requirements aid planning and program development.
Education, states, and school districts have reduced administrative burdens by adopting new technology and using certain resource strategies. For example, several state administrators said Education’s electronic data submission system has made it easier to complete federally-required state performance plans. During fall 2014, Education launched a new electronic reporting system intended to, among other things, consolidate data collections and ease data entry. Some schools and districts have also adopted resource strategies, such as hiring data clerks to reduce administrative burdens, but these strategies can be costly.