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U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Resolution Meetings

Section 300.510 requires the parents, relevant members of the IEP Team, and a representative of the public agency to participate in a resolution meeting, prior to the initiation of a due process hearing, unless the parents and LEA agree to use mediation or agree to waive the requirement for a resolution meeting. The impact of these final regulations will depend on the following factors: the number of requests for due process hearings, the extent to which disagreements are already resolved without formal hearings, the likelihood that parties will agree to participate in mandatory resolution meetings instead of other potentially more expensive alternatives to due process hearings (e.g., mediation), and the likelihood that parties will avoid due process hearings by reaching agreement as a result of mandatory resolution meetings.

Available data suggest that overall savings are not likely to be significant because of the small number of due process requests and the extent to which disagreements are already being successfully resolved through mediation.

Based on data reported in a recent CADRE State data collection in which States reported receiving 12,914 requests for due process hearings during 2000-2001, we estimate that there will be approximately 14,059 requests for due process hearings in school year 2006-2007. Based on data from the same study, we also estimate that the large majority of these disagreements will be successfully resolved through mediation or dropped. Out of the 12,914 requests for school year 2000-2001, approximately 5,536 went to mediation and only 3,659 ended up in formal hearings. Assuming no change in the use and efficacy of mediation, we predict that 6,028 requests would go to mediation in school year 2006-2007. We further predict that another 4,047 complaints will be dropped, leaving no more than 3,985 requests for due process hearings that would require resolution meetings.

Because of the high cost of due process hearings and the low expected cost of conducting a resolution meeting, there would likely be some savings for all parties involved if resolution meetings were relatively successful in resolving disagreements. For example, California reports an average cost of $18,600 for a due process hearing, while Texas reports having spent an average of $9,000 for a hearing officer's services. Anticipating that attorneys will participate in approximately 40 percent of the predicted 3,985 resolution meetings (including drafting legally binding agreements when parties reach agreement), we expect resolution meetings to cost just over twice the average cost of IEP Team meetings, or approximately $700 per meeting. Even with a very low success rate (eight percent), given the expected costs of these meetings compared to the high cost of conducting a hearing, all parties involved would likely realize some modest savings. However, because disputes that result in formal hearings tend to be the most difficult to resolve, we do not expect that mandatory resolution meetings will be highly successful in resolving such cases. By definition, these are cases in which the parties are not amenable to using existing alternatives to formal hearings such as mediation. Moreover, assuming an average cost of between $10,000 and $20,000 per due process hearing, even if as many as 20 percent of the 3,985 complaints were successfully resolved through resolution meetings, net savings still would not exceed $10 million. (Note that it is unclear to what extent data on average mediation and due process hearing costs account for LEA opportunity costs (e.g., cost per teacher and/or administrator participating). To the extent that these data do not reflect the opportunity costs of participating LEA officials and staff, we have overestimated the potential savings from resolution meetings).

Beyond those savings to all parties resulting from reductions in the total number of formal hearings, we also expect some additional savings to result from parties agreeing to participate in resolution meetings instead of mediation, particularly if the resolution meetings are as effective as mediation in resolving disagreements. However, unlike due process hearings, the expected cost of conducting a resolution meeting ($700 per meeting) is only somewhat less than the cost of a mediation session (between $600 and $1,800 per session). Because the cost differential between resolution meetings and mediations is relatively small (compared to the difference in cost between resolution meetings and due process hearings) the potential for savings generated by parties agreeing to resolution meetings instead of mediation is minimal.

The Secretary concludes that requiring parties to participate in resolution meetings prior to due process hearings could generate modest savings for all parties to disputes, insofar as mandatory resolution meetings could result in fewer due process hearings and may be used as a less expensive alternative to mediation.