What is the Special Education Advisory Panel and How You Can Help?

The Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP) is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA). Regulations (see the blog post Finding the IDEA Legislation and Regulations) covering the creation of the SEAP is part of 34 CFR Part 300 §167-169. (The § symbol means section.) It states that all states and territories must establish and maintain an advisory panel.

According to §300.169, the advisory panel must---

a)    Advise the SEA [State Education Agency] of unmet needs within the State in the education of children with disabilities;
b)    Comment publicly on any rules or regulations proposed by the State regarding the education of children with disabilities;
c)    Advise the SEA in developing evaluations and reporting on data to the Secretary under section 618 of the Act;
d)    Advise the SEA in developing corrective action plans to address findings identified in Federal monitoring reports under Part B of the Act; and
e)    Advise the SEA in developing and implementing policies relating to the coordination of services for children with disabilities.

Each state/territory has special education laws that stipulate the creation of the SEAP. Sometimes it is call a Counsel or a Committee. In Colorado, it is the Colorado Special Education Advisory Committee or CSEAC. Check in your state to see what this panel might be called. Your state laws will also identify the State Education Agency that this panel advises. In Colorado, it is the State Board of Education.

Note that this panel serves in an advisory capacity only. It is not in place to make changes directly to any system. It is only there to give advice.

According to the regulations,

The advisory panel must consist of members appointed by the Governor, or any other official authorized under State law to make such appointments, be representative of the State population and be composed of individuals involved in, or concerned with the education of children with disabilities

Even though many parties must be represented on the panel, the “majority of the panel must be individuals with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities (ages birth through 26)”. How they are chosen is determined by each state. In Colorado’s state bylaws for the CSEAC, it is not specified how committee members will be chosen.

How each state’s SEAP works will be determined by that state. In Colorado, there is a set of bylaws that govern the operation of the CSEAC. The CSEAC has four subcommittees:

  1. Membership
  2. Public Policy and Legislation
  3. Communications
  4. Student Outcomes

As a member of the CSEAC, it is my responsibility to gather input from as many sources in the community as I can. This input will be used to advise the Colorado State Board of Education and the Colorado Department of Education. A CSEAC annual report is published each year. The 2014-2015 Annual Report should be out soon. If you want more detailed information on the CSEAC members, minutes of the meetings, etc., go to the CSEAC website.

Whether you are a teacher, parent or service provider, the SEAP in your state can use your input. Please go to your state SEAP website and find out how you can either become a member or provide feedback. If you are in Colorado and you are interested in providing feedback, please register for the Learning Differences World newsletter. I will make sure that you are contacted for input to the CSEAC.

If you have an issue that you would like to address with the CSEAC, you can contact me via email here or comment on this blog post.

Remember, that the advice that a SEAP provides is only as good as the input received from the people being impacted by the system.