home research news speak out calendar ideas guest book search
Go to UCP Homepage
Home News Research Congress Speak Out Calendar Feedback Search
Education Employment Health & Wellness
Housing Parenting & Families Products & Services
Sports & Leisure Transportation Travel
Your UCP: National August 03, 2003


President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education Commission Background

President Bush has named a 42 member Commission on Excellence in Education which is to study and recommend changes in eligibility and funding formulae governing Special Education. This Commission is to help the Adminstration prepare for the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) which must occur next year, 2002. People with disabilities and their representatives should communicate their positions to Commission members, particularly those members from their home state. For addition information, please see the October 18, 2001 issue of Washington Watch.

The following are members of the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education:

Governor Terry Branstad, of Iowa, Chair

Governor Branstad served four consecutive four-year terms as the chief executive of the state of Iowa. He completed his term of office in January of 1999. While in office, Governor Branstad made education a top priority of his administration.

In addition to his efforts in restoring Iowa’s economic stature, he emphasized the need for all children in the state to receive the highest quality education, no matter what their ability and circumstances of birth. He led the effort that built a statewide fiber optics network to provide distance learning opportunities to every school district, college and university in the state of Iowa.

His leadership capabilities have been recognized through his chairmanship of the National Governors Association (NGA) (1989), and of the Republican Governors Association (1997), and his leadership in education is exemplified by his chairmanship of the Education Commission of the States (1998). As NGA chairman, he led the historic 1989 education summit in Charlottesville, Va. With the support of President Bush, the summit called for the development of performance-based National Education Goals. Those goals were subsequently adopted by the NGA in 1990.

Governor Branstad has had careers as a farmer and an attorney and served his country with the U.S. Army from 1969-1971. He is a native of Leland, Iowa, and he and his wife Chris have three grown children.

Adela Acosta, of Maryland

Adela Acosta is currently principal of the Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Prince George’s County, Md. She holds a Master of Science in education from the University of Kansas. From 1978 to 1989, Ms. Acosta was a senior program specialist at the U.S. Department of Justice, working with schools and school districts on multicultural and desegregation issues. For the past decade, Ms. Acosta has worked as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in schools in Maryland.

Steve Bartlett, of Texas

Steve Bartlett currently serves as president of the Financial Services Roundtable. He reorganized the membership base to include select member companies from all sectors of the financial services industry. Prior to that he was mayor of Dallas, Texas, from 1991-1995 and was a member of the United States Congress. A native Texan, Mr. Bartlett learned the value of hard work growing up on a small farm near Lockhart in south central Texas before moving to Dallas.

Mr. Bartlett served as ranking Republican member of the select Education Subcommittee during his entire tenure in Congress (1983-1991). From this post he provided significant leadership on disability issues, always with a view to maximizing independence for people with disabilities. Legislation on which he provided leadership includes the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). He also supported employment in vocational rehabilitation, assistive technology initiatives, early childhood intervention programs, the Baby Doe Protection for Newborns with Disabilities program, and the reauthorization of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.

Both prior to and subsequent to his service in Congress, Mr. Bartlett has been active in disability issues. One of his proudest moments was when he was elected “Best Dad”-Texas by the Neurofibromatosis Foundation. He was also named the Texas Legislator of the Year by the Texas Association for Retarded Citizens, and received the Henry Colin Humanitarian Award from the Dallas Regional Anti-Defamation League and the Legislative Leadership Recognition Award from the National Council of La Raza.

Mr. Bartlett graduated from the University of Texas at Austin where he also served as an adjunct professor and guest lecturer at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. He is married and is the father of three children.

Paula C. Butterfield, of Pennsylvania

Paula C. Butterfield is currently the chief academic officer and deputy superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. She oversees special education in this district where 15 percent of approximately 40,000 students are in special education. Prior to serving in Pittsburgh, Ms. Butterfield was a superintendent for 10 years in Mercer Island, Wash., and Bozeman, Mont. Ms. Butterfield began her career in education as a social studies teacher and a reading specialist/special education teacher with extensive experience as a curriculum director, middle school and high school principal, and school superintendent. She was named Montana Superintendent of the Year in 1998 and has been a Fulbright scholar.

Ms. Butterfield has her doctorate in special education and has offered expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. She was selected as a lead superintendent for the Danforth Foundation’s early childhood initiative “Success for all Children” and is also a National Fellow at the Institute for Learning at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She is one of the few special educators who has achieved the position of superintendent, making her an educational leader for all children.

Jay G. Chambers, of California

Jay Chambers is currently a senior research fellow and a managing director in the education program at the American Institute for Research, where he oversees projects on the economics of education and school finance. Mr. Chambers received his doctorate in Economics from Stanford University and is currently serving as president-elect of the American Education Finance Association. His career spans 28 years, during which he has analyzed spending patterns covering virtually all programs provided in K-12 education.

His work in the past two decades has positioned him to be one of the leading experts on special education funding and expenditure analysis, and he is currently involved in several projects involving analysis of patterns of spending on special education services. He is currently serving as the director of the National Special Education Expenditure Project, conducted under contract with the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. He is also co-directing (with Tom Parrish) special education spending projects in 11 states. In addition, Mr. Chambers is project director for the Milwaukee Public School Special Education Finance Project, which is designed to explore approaches to allocating funds to support special education within the public schools in Milwaukee.

Mr. Chambers also serves as the principal investigator for the program expenditure component of the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study funded by the U.S. Department of Education. This project focuses on Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

W. Alan Coulter, of Louisiana

Walter Coulter is currently an associate professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Human Studies/School of Allied Health Professions at the Louisiana Southern University Health Sciences Center. A psychologist by training, he is also the program director for Interdisciplinary Training and School-Age Programs at the Human Development Center, through which he works with states and districts to establish a special education model that focuses on student performance data.

Previously, Mr. Coulter was the director of Support and Appraisal Services in the New Orleans Public Schools. He was president of the National Association of School Psychologists in 1983-84 and has received its award for child advocacy. Mr. Coulter has served as a long-term consultant with Louisiana, California and Florida Departments of Education and the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.

Thomas Flemming, of Michigan

Thomas Fleming received his master’s degree in special education from Eastern Michigan University, where he serves as special assistant to the provost. His dedication to special education has been founded, in part, on his own experiences as a special education student. He began his teaching career more than 30 years ago at the Maxey Boys Training School in Whitmore Lake, Mich. Earlier, he taught adolescents diagnosed as emotionally disturbed at Pontiac State Hospital and Ypsilanti State Hospital. Between 1969 and 1971, Fleming served as a consultant for the High Scope Educational Research Foundation, an early childhood education research program, in conjunction with the Chicago Public School System. In addition, he has been a teacher of history and government, serving students eligible for special education at the Washtenaw County Juvenile Detention School.

Mr. Fleming was selected as the Michigan Teacher of the Year in 1991, and was the National Teacher of the Year in 1992. He holds an honorary doctorate in humane letters degree from the College of Misericordia in Dallas, Penn., and an honorary doctorate in education from Eastern Michigan University. He has also developed a literacy curriculum for application in the home and the community.

Mr. Fleming serves on the board of the Institute for Black Family Development and remains active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He is also active in the ministry as a preacher and educator. Mr. Fleming was honorably discharged after serving four years in the National Guard of Michigan, and two years in the Army of the United States, 1949-1955. In the Army he served during the Korean War as combat engineer and was stationed in Germany and France.

Jack M. Fletcher, of Texas

Jack Fletcher is currently a professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Associate Director of the Center for Academic and Reading Skills at the University of Texas–Houston Health Science Center. For the past two decades, Mr. Fletcher, a child neuropsychologist by training, has researched many aspects of development of reading, language and other cognitive skills in children with disabilities.

His work covers issues related to learning and attention problems, including definition and classification, neurobiological correlates, and, most recently, intervention. He collaborates on several grants on reading and attention funded by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) as well as a grant funded by the National Science Foundation, Department of Education and NICHD under the Interagency Educational Research Initiative. Mr. Fletcher is also a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on NIH-funded research projects involving children with brain injuries, including a project on spina bifida and other projects involving children with traumatic brain injury.

Mr. Fletcher served on and chaired the NICHD Mental Retardation/ Developmental Disabilities study section and is a former member of the NICHD Maternal and Child Health study section. He chaired a committee on children with persistent reading disability for the Houston Independent School District (HISD) and served on a task force on reading for HISD that produced a report widely cited within the state of Texas as a model for enhancing reading instruction in elementary school children.

In addition to his research activities, Mr. Fletcher has provided clinical services to children with disabilities and their parents for the past 25 years. In his clinical practice, Dr. Fletcher specializes in serving children and adults with disabilities in attention, oral language, learning and emotional and social development, dyslexia, spina bifida, traumatic head injury and mental retardation. He is also an expert in the content and interpretation of the IDEA and has participated at all levels of implementation, ranging from interdisciplinary team meetings to various levels of mediation. Mr. Fletcher has received numerous service awards from local school districts.

Douglas H. Gill, of Washington

Mr. Gill is the state director of special education for the state of Washington. During the past 30 years, he has been a special education teacher at the elementary and secondary school levels. He was also an instructor at Georgia Southern University and the University of Georgia. He received a Bachelor of Science in special education from Augusta College in Georgia, and his Master of Education from the University of Georgia in 1977, and was awarded his doctorate in educational leadership from Seattle University in 1988. He has been a consultant in 28 states and British Columbia during the past 26 years. He is the author of numerous articles and publications in the field of special education.

Prior to joining the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1990, Mr. Gill was director of the Pierce County, Washington Cooperative, a nationally validated model that demonstrated improved post-school outcomes for special education students enrolled in vocational education programs. As a result of these efforts, he was the recipient of the 1988 American Vocational Association, Special Needs Division, Award for Exemplary Research.

During the time he has been state director of special education in Washington, he has been instrumental in analyzing and revising the state's funding formula for special education, as well as implementing a legislatively directed "safety-net" which provides supplemental funding when district costs for special education exceed available revenues. Mr. Gill has been on numerous state and national panels, and was most recently a member of a national task force in conjunction with the American Institutes for Research, Center for Special Education Finance.

David W. Gordon, of California

Since 1995, David Gordon has served as superintendent of the Elk Grove Unified School District in Elk Grove, Calif. He received his bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, and his Master of Education and Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from Harvard University. He has served as a special education teacher of children with emotional disturbances and as the staff director for early childhood education within the California State Department of Education. He has served on a number of state commissions and boards, including the California State University Chancellor’s Committee on Improving Teacher Preparation, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and the Professional Personnel Development and School Readiness Working Groups of the California Legislative Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education.

Upon his arrival at the Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento, Calif,, as assistant superintendent for elementary schools in 1991, one of the first things Mr. Gordon observed was that 13 percent of the district’s students were placed in special education. Of that 13 percent, over half were labeled “learning disabled.” Gordon suspected that most of these children were not disabled but merely experiencing difficulty learning to read. Yet the district had no system in place to intervene at the first sign of trouble.

In 1993, Gordon went to the California State Board of Education to request a waiver in two areas: First, to allow the district to use special education personnel to develop and implement evidence-based early reading intervention programs; and second, to hold the district harmless in terms of funding if early intervention worked and fewer students were identified. The board agreed, and the results were astounding. The district’s special education rate decreased to 9 percent and student performance significantly increased. Elk Grove’s early intervention program is now available as a national model for the implementation of effective early identification and intervention programs for children at risk for reading failure.

Nancy S. Grasmick, of Maryland

Nancy Grasmick, Maryland state superintendent of schools, has spent much of her career focused on the needs of all children and their families, especially those with disabilities. She is nationally respected for her thoughtful and systematic leadership approach to the building of consensus among parents and educators on issues and programs for special education. These collaborations have led to an innovative model of funding and accountability for special education in Maryland that is systematically integrated with the state accountability system.

After experiencing a temporary hearing loss as a child, Ms. Grasmick became committed to improving education for children with disabilities. Upon receiving her Bachelor of Science from Towson University, she taught young children with disabilities in a Baltimore City elementary school. She pursued her interest in deaf education by receiving a Master of Science from Gallaudet University. Later she taught children with emotional disabilities and language disorders. She was the supervisor of special education for the Baltimore County Public schools for six years, a principal of the Chatsworth School for students with severe emotional disabilities for four years, and an assistant and then associate superintendent for the Baltimore County Public Schools for 11 years. Ms. Grasmick received her doctorate in communicative sciences with a focus on speech and language disorders from the Johns Hopkins University.

Ms. Grasmick serves on numerous boards and commissions addressing the needs of children and adults with disabilities including The Center for Technology Education at Johns Hopkins University, The University of Maryland Hospital for Children, Maryland Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, Metropolitan Baltimore Association of Learning Disabled Children, and Maryland Association for Dyslexic Adults and Youth. She holds honorary doctoral degrees from five colleges and universities in recognition of her tremendous contributions to children and their education and has been elected to Who’s Who in American Education and Who’s Who in America. She has also received the 2000 Outstanding Advocate Award from the National Association of School Psychologists and the President’s Award from the National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children. In 2000, she was awarded the prestigious McGraw Prize in Education.

Bryan C. Hassel, of North Carolina

In his role as president of Public Impact, an education policy consulting firm, Bryan Hassel conducts research and consults nationally on charter school and the comprehensive reform of existing public schools, including special education.

He has conducted extensive research on accountability in special education, comprehensive school reform and teacher quality. He co-authored two articles on accountability in special education, one describing shortcomings in the current system of special education accountability and one suggesting a new, results-based approach to accountability.

Mr. Hassel's overarching critique of federal special education policy is that it is too focused on procedural compliance and not focused enough on learning results achieved by children. He is open to a variety of particular accountability approaches, but strongly favors reforms that create powerful incentives for each level of the special education system, from federal education officials to teachers. He knows that we should concentrate on helping special education students achieve at the highest possible levels, rather than on checking off procedural boxes.

Mr. Hassel received his doctorate in public policy from Harvard University and his master’s in politics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Douglas Carl Huntt, of Ohio

Douglas Huntt is a commissioner for the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission and is the executive director for assistive technology of Ohio, located in Columbus. In his role as commissioner, Mr. Huntt has provided superb leadership in ensuring strong and accountable linkages between transitions from school to work. He has also worked to bring assistive technology into the special education classroom by facilitating funding for computer Internet labs.

Mr. Huntt, a disabled Marine Corps veteran, received his Bachelor of Arts in secondary education from Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky., a master’s in social service administration from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and a doctorate in social work from the Ohio State University. He has direct teaching experience with students with severe behavioral disorders and has formerly served as director of a children’s mental health agency. He was also chair of the Ohio Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities from 1991 to 1997.

Mr. Huntt believes that there should be equal accountability, academically and behaviorally, in special education classrooms as there are currently in mainstream classrooms. Special education teachers should be held to the same high standards and expectations as mainstream teachers. Mr. Huntt is a nationally known disability advocate who supports President Bush’s New Freedom Initiative, which will provide continuity between IDEA and other disability policies.

Michael James Rivas, of Texas

Michael Rivas is an associate project manager with DTM and Associates Architects in San Antonio, Texas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental design architecture from Texas A&M University.

Mr. Rivas’ interest in special education is primarily a personal, rather than a professional one. His four-year-old son, who is enrolled in a special education pre-school in the Northside Independent School District, suffers from autism, and his older brother is mentally retarded and lives at the San Antonio State School. Mr. Rivas has been very involved in his brother’s life and education and participated in the Special Olympics. He also serves as an advocate for his son’s education and brings a parental and family perspective to the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education.

Cheryl Rei Takemoto, of Virginia

Cheryl Takemoto is currently the executive director of the Parent Education Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) in Springfield, Va. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a master’s degree in public administration from San Jose State University, Calif.

Ms. Takemoto has substantial professional and personal experience with special education issues, the provision of special education services, and the development of genuine collaborations between parents and professionals in all areas of services for children and adults with disabilities. In her professional capacity, she has focused on building partnerships between parents and schools that provide parents with practical and highly useful information and strategies for obtaining the most appropriate special education services for their children and for working in partnership with their child’s school. PEATC, based in Springfield, Va., has also focused on ensuring that Latino parents understand special education systems, the rights that are provided to children and adults with disabilities, and how to obtain access to appropriate education programs.

Her substantial involvement with all stakeholders within the special education community includes memberships on boards and organizations involved in advocacy for special education students. Ms. Takemoto is the parent of a child with a visual impairment, cognitive disabilities and other health needs. Her combined professional and personal experiences have provided the foundation for her many publications, which help guide parents of children with special needs.

Katie Harper Wright, of Illinois

Katie Wright currently serves as a writer for the St. Louis ARGUS Newspaper in East St. Louis, Ill. She comes to this position with a significant and long-term career in education and special education. Ms. Wright earned her Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Illinois, her Master of Education in special education from the same institution and her Doctor of Education in special education from St. Louis University

Ms. Wright has dedicated the majority of her professional career to serving students with disabilities. She has served as an elementary school and special education teacher, a director of special education, a learning specialist at St. Louis University, and an interim and assistant superintendent of schools in Illinois District 189. She has also been a professor of education and has focused on the training of special education teachers. With respect to the administration of special education programs, Ms. Wright’s doctoral dissertation addressed the effects of federal and state legislation and litigation on special education programs and outcomes. She has also written extensively on the over-identification of black males for special education services.

As the director of special education services in District 189, Ms. Wright established new programs for children with learning disabilities and emotional handicaps, and for gifted children with disabilities. She developed Project SHIPS, which focused on school based interventions for preschool children at risk for school failure. Ms. Wright is listed in Who’s Who of America, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Who’s Who in Education, and Who’s Who among Black Americans. She also holds the National Council of Negro Women Illinois and National Black Women Leadership Award.

The following are ex officio members of the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education:

  • Elizabeth Ann Bryan, Senior Adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige
  • Edward Sontag, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Robert Pasternack, Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education
  • G. Reid Lyon, Chief, Child Development and Behavior Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  • Wade F. Horn, Assistant Secretary for Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Contact Information:

C. Todd Jones, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, serves as executive director of the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education.

The commission offices are located at 80 F Street, NW, Suite 408, Washington, D.C. 20208. Commission staff may be contacted at (202) 208-1312.

Previous Section
About UCP
Research Foundation & Fact Sheets
Corporate Sponsors
Public Policy
Media & Public Awareness
Grants & Contracts
Bellows Fund
Web Site Accessibility
En español
© 2003, UCP National (aka United Cerebral Palsy)
1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 800-872-5827/202-776-0406 TTY: 202-973-7197 Fax: 202-776-0414
E-Mail: webmaster@ucp.org
Affiliate Center Entrance
[password required]
Privacy Policy & Terms of Usage