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IMPORTANT IDEA LEGISLATIVE ACTION ALERT - PLEASE SHARE

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  • Alpy2@aol.com
    Hi all. Please read the following and take action. Also, please share this widely with anyone you think might help. The timing may be right in Congress to
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 16, 2007
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      Hi all.  Please read the following and take action. Also, please share this widely with anyone you think might help. The timing may be right in Congress to reverse a Supreme Court decision that hurts families of students with disabilities, and to help even the playing field.  But to do so, we need to make a strong show of support! So please call and write (as instructed below) and ask others to do so as well! And please send copies (as instructed) to the group (COPAA) that is collecting the information for use in helping pass this legislation in Washington!  Finally, if you have an extra moment, please send us an email (parentvolunteer@...) letting us know about your contact with your legislators! We always love to hear from you!
       
      ACTION ALERT FROM COPAA:
       
      Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc.
      A national voice for special education rights and advocacy
      PO Box 6767, Towson MD 21285  www.copaa.org
      Jessica Butler, Chair, COPAA Board of Directors & Robert Berlow, Government Relations Chair  (email: protectidea@...)
       
      Dear COPAAns,
       
      Today, Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas introduced the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  This bill, would allow prevailing parents to recoup their expert costs in litigation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  The bill would restore Congress’ original intent in granting parents the ability to recover their attorneys’ fees and costs when they prevail in IDEA cases.  Congressman Van Hollen’s speech in introducing the bill is here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?r110:14:./temp/~r110qVAiAw:
       
      Parents prevail in IDEA cases only when they show that the school district provided an education so inferior that it failed its legal obligations.  But while they can recover their attorneys’ fees, they cannot recover their expert witness costs as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy (2006).   The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act would override the Supreme Court’s decision and help even the playing field for parents of children with disabilities.
       
      COPAA is grateful for the hard work and leadership of Congressman Van Hollen and Congressman Sessions on this bill.
       
      Congress included in the IDEA the right to a due process hearing because it recognized that parents needed an independent dispute resolution process to enforce their rights to a free appropriate public education for their children with disabilities.   Expert testimony is often necessary in such cases.  
       
      In 1986, Congress amended the IDEA to allow parents to recover their attorneys’ fees when they prevail in due process.  This was necessary to reverse a Supreme Court decision forbidding such recovery.  Congress amended the IDEA because it recognized that parents need lawyers and experts to exercise their right to due process.  Congress knew that parents have substantially fewer resources than school districts and many cannot afford expert witness fees. 
       
      Twenty-one years later, that reality still has not changed.  Approximately 36% of children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year; over 2/3 earn less than $50,000 a year.  Few parents can afford the thousands of dollars needed to pay qualified medical, educational, and technical experts.  While parents must hire expert witnesses to testify, school districts can use therapists, psychologists, and other expert witnesses on their own payroll.
       
      Approximately 7 million children with disabilities are currently covered by the IDEA.  Nonetheless, parents proceed to litigation only as a last resort.  In 2003, the GAO reported that there were only 5 hearings per 10,000 special education students.   Parents should not be deprived of their right to due process for lack of resources.
       
      COPAA thanks Congressman Van Hollen and Congressman Sessions for introducing this very important legislation.   We call upon COPAAns to contact their Congressional offices and urge support of the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  It is  important to send COPAA a copy of your letters and emails to Congress, so that we can show the strength of support for this legislation.   There are four ways to do this:
       
      (1)   Call 202-224-3121 and ask to speak to your Representative’s Office, When you are connected, ask for the Education aide.  (To find your Congressional Representative’s name, go to http://www.house.gov/ and use the locator in the upper left corner)
       
      (2)   Fax your Representative.  You can find your Representative’s fax number on his/her webpage at http://www.house.gov/  Be sure to send COPAA a copy of your fax, either by emailing it to protectidea@... or by faxing it to 410-372-0209.
       
      (3)   Email your Congressperson, http://www.house.gov/writerep/  Before you send your email, please copy it into a word processing document, along with your Congressperson’s name and your name and address, and send that copy to COPAA.  You can email it to us at protectidea@..., fax it to 410-372-0209, or send it to COPAA, PO Box 6767, Towson MD 21285.  This will enable us to collect all of the letters and emails for key Congressional aides.  This is very important.  In the crush of email that reaches Congress about a variety of issues, we need to present a large number of emails and letters to show how strong our support is on this issue.
       
      (4)   If you are unable to make long distance phone calls and do not have access to email, please call your local Congressional office.  Go to the “Blue Pages” in your local phone book and look in the federal government section for the phone number.
       
      After you contact your Congressional Representative, help your friends and family members write letters and make telephone calls, too!
       
      The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act goes far to remedy the gross imbalance of resources between parents and school districts.    We thank Congressman Van Hollen and Congressman Sessions for their dedication to the rights of children with disabilities.   While the bill does not deal with Schaffer v. Weast, COPAA will continue to work hard to seek an override of that decision about burden of proof.  Meanwhile, we thank you in advance for your letters in support of the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  Together, we can make an override of the Murphy decision a reality and protect children’s fundamental rights to a free appropriate public education.
       
      Thank you for your support and joining in our efforts,
       
      Jessica Butler
      Chair, COPAA Board of Directors
      Robert Berlow
      Chair, COPAA Government Relations Committee
       
      Email: protectidea@... 
       
      Please feel free to share this email with others.
       
       
      Sandy, Illinois (alpy2@...)
      Volunteer Co-Webmaster, www.OurChildrenLeftBehind.com (IDEA & NCLB reauthorization)




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