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Alexa Posny Interview - Part II

Posted Dec 16 2009 8:41pm

My recent interview with Dr. Alexa Posny, the new Assistant Secretary of Education for OSERS ( the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services) covered a lot of ground. This is the second of a series of occasional posts concerning the interview over the next few weeks. NOTE: After today's post, this series will continue after the Christmas holiday. "JG" indicates that I am speaking. "AP" indicates that Secretary Posny is speaking.

Today's post concerns the mission and role of OSERS.

AP: Yes, and IDEA reauthorization is going to be coming up.

JG: Yeah, and I've got that on my list for you, believe me. Before we get to that though, in terms of the role of OSEP and the role of OSERS in general, in terms of what you do, how do you see the mission of your agency and the mission of OSEP within your agency?

AP: Okay, well, I'm sure you're very well familiar that OSEP and RSA, the Rehabilitative Services Administration and NIDRR, National Dissemination and Research arm of this, when I look at all of that, this is to serve infants, toddlers, youth and adults, in terms of for the K12 system, in terms of the academic and that part of the system, as well as leading them towards that career or their life in the future and which is where the VR comes into this. So, in terms of our mission, it's to make sure that any person with a disability is gainfully employed and has a great life, bottom line, and K12 is definitely a precursor to that and that's where OSEP plays the major role. You know, they do it and the Part C, of course, is 619 and then, of course, K12 and all the way through 21 or whatever, and that's then where RSA and the rest of it picks up afterwards, you know, to make sure that especially those adults with disabilities - - who have significant disabilities - - of course, are provided what they need. So, how does OSEP fit in there? If we don't have a good system that's leading into what they need to do in terms of follow up, then anything we do in terms of VR, they can't redo what might have been lost, if we don't provide what the children need long before they get out of the public school system. So, in OSEP - - since I know OSEP so well - - that's been great. The other thing is, one thing that I've talked about, as much as we talk about no child left behind, some areas of concern within that, I believe that students with disabilities made tremendous progress over the last however many years as a result of holding all of our kids to be accountable and to make sure that they all succeed. So, I just think we've seen tremendous strides. I really do.

JG: And I think you're right. In terms of your job, how much do you think special ed is going to play? You also have vocational rehab I like to call it because I'm old (laughing) and the research functions, of course. But special ed seems to be the big-ticket item on the plate. Is that true, you think?

AP: It's very true and it's not because I want to slight the other pieces, but when you think of how much IDEA - - I mean, you are very aware of the volumes of regulations and laws that we have and that plays a big part in it. Now, I'm not saying that WIA, the Workforce Incentive and the Rehab Act and so forth don't have those pieces, but when you think about what is included in IDEA, that's why it's such a huge aspect, but there's another part of it. We have to make sure that we are inclusive, so I need to be in all of the discussions on the reauthorization of ESEA, every piece. So, because it's more of that piece that impacts the rest of the U.S. Department of Education, that's OSEP plays such a big role. But I also need to help them understand how RSA and NiDRR also play a piece in this and that's another piece. I want to help that rise to the surface, to let them understand how it fits together.

JG: Okay.

AP: So, you know, I think it's been slighted.

JG: Okay, and I think many people feel that way, but on the other hand, as you said, there's just so much money and so much law involved in the special ed, for whatever reason. I mean, if you look through the case law on rehabilitation, there's just nothing there.

AP: But it's nothing in comparison to case law that we have. That's right.

JG: It's hard to actually literally keep up. I try to read all the cases in special ed, including many of the hearing officer opinions because I think that there's a lot of good discussion and new ideas there, but it's just hard to read them all. There's so many.

AP: Absolutely, and just think about it. We've only had the law for about 35 years.

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