States and local school districts have been slow to adopt multiple Education Dept (DoEd) programs that are intended to cut the paperwork tied to the $11.5 billion Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding programs (CFDA Number: 84.327), said a new government report.
When IDEA was reauthorized in 2004, it included provisions to reduce paperwork and to address concerns about the administrative burden, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
Last year Congress provided about $11.5 billion in grants under IDEA Part B to help states and local districts defray the costs of special education services for nearly 6.6 million students.
DoEd attempted to reduce administrative burden by creating pilot programs and publishing model paperwork forms, but states have used these tools sparingly. Specifically, DoEd 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, the report said.
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, DoEd also published templates, known as model forms, to help states streamline the process of preparing IEPs and comply with parent notice requirements in IDEA, the report said.
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, the report said.
Educators 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, the report said.
However, the march of technology has stepped in to streamline the process where the previous DoEd efforts have failed, the report said.
Education, states, and school districts have reduced administrative burdens by adopting new technology and using certain resource strategies. For example, several state administrators said DoEd electronic data submission system has made it easier to complete federally-required state performance plans, the report said. Recently DoEd 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, the report said.