IDEA & DS Caucus Action Alert (Call-In Day Tuesday, May 6!)
IDEA and DS Caucus Action Alert Call your Member of the House of Representatives on Tuesday May 6!
To: NDSC and NDSS Members and Affiliates
From: Susan Goodman, Director
NDSC Governmental Affairs
Ricki Sabia, Assistant Director
NDSS Policy Center
Calls to Action
Call your Member of the House of Representatives on Tuesday May 6!
1. More Co-Sponsors Needed for IDEA Fariness Restoration Act (regarding expert fees)
2. Ask member to join the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus
NOTE: The reason NDSS and NDSC are sending out more than one action alert in a short space of time is that there is a great deal of legislative activity in Congress between now and the recess later in the year to allow for election campaigning. We appreciate your attentiveness and response to both action alerts. Every one of these issues is critically important to the future of individuals with Down syndrome.
Expert Fees Under IDEA
Please call your Congressional Representative on Tuesday, May 6 and ask him or her to co-sponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (H.R. 4188). On November 13, 2007, Congressman Pete Sessions (R.TX) and Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D.MD) introduced the IDEA FAIRNESS RESTORATION ACT, H.R. 4188 which would allow prevailing (winning party) parents to recoup expert fees and related costs in due process and litigation under the individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Congress intended for parents to recover their expert witness fees when they passed the Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986. The statute explicitly stated that attorneys fees could be recovered by prevailing parents. In the conference report accompanying that bill, Congress also stated that they intended for parents to be able to recover expert fees and costs related to bringing the action.
However, in 2006 an award of expert fees and costs to parents was challenged in a case that went to the Supreme Court called Arlington Central School District v. Murphy (2006). At that time, the Supreme Court ruled that parents cannot recover expert witness fees and related costs since it was not explicitly stated in the law. As a result, parents, who are prevailing parties, can no longer recover their expert witness and related costs.
School districts use tax dollars to pay psychologists, therapists, and other experts. Parents have fewer resources and yet must bear a greater financial burden. Few parents can afford the thousands of dollars needed to pay for qualified medical, technical, and other expert witnesses. If due process is not affordable, the IEP process becomes much less fair and more one-sided. Most parents turn to due process and litigation only as a last resort. In 2003, the GAO reported that there were only 5 hearings per 10,000 special education students.
Call to Action
On Tuesday, May 6, 2008, please call your 202-224-3121, which is the Congressional switchboard. When you are connected to your Representative's office, ask for the staff member who handles special education issues. Tell him or her to ask your Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. Also, have friends and family members call. If you do not know who your Congressional Representative is, go to http://www.congress.org to look it up. Please call your Representative instead of using email.
Identify yourself as a parent, family member or friend of a child with Down syndrome. Tell your personal story, if you have one, about your efforts to get a free appropriate public education for your child. You can use the following talking points:
• Congress intended for parents to recover expert fees and related costs when they passed the Handicapped Children's Protection Act in 1986.
• Few parents can afford the expert witness fees and related costs associated with a due process hearing, let alone the emotional cost of having to go through this process.
• Parents use due process only as a last resort - when their child is being denied a free appropriate public education as entitled by law.
Thanks to the work of advocates, H.R. 4188 is sponsored by 20 representatives, but more cosponsors are needed to help build support for the bill. The following are already cosponsors: Neil Abercrombie (HI), Richard Baker (LA), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Ginny Brown-Waite (FL), Dan Burton (IN), Steve Cohen (TN), Danny Davis (IL), Peter DeFazio (OR), Charles Gonzalez (TX), Michael Honda (CA), Ray LaHood (IL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), James Moran (VA), Grace Napolitano (CA), Donald Payne (NJ), Janice Schakowsky (IL), Pete Sessions (TX), Pete Stark (CA), Chris Van Hollen (MD), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL). We thank them for their support!
Want more detailed information?
The Council on Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPPA) have written a complete brochure on the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act which you can find at http://www.copaa.org/pdf/MurphyBrochure.pdf You can read H.R. 4188 here: http://www.copaa.org/news/IRFAct.html You can read letters from over 100 disability organizations supporting H.R. 4188 here:
2. Ask your member of the House of Representatives to join the
Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus
House of Representative members Pete Sessions (R.TX), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R.WA), Patrick Kennedy (D.RI) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.DC) have sent a Dear Colleague letter asking other House members to join the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus (CDSC).
According to the letter,
"the caucus will serve as a valuable resource for increasing awareness of those efforts and identifying ways that Congress and relevant departments and agencies of the Federal government can help to meet the needs of individuals with Down syndrome and their value to society. The CDSC will promote public policies to enhance the quality of life of individuals with Down syndrome by: (1) raising expectations and improving outcomes in education; (2) eliminating barriers to economic opportunity in employment and in programs that promote savings and investment; and (3) promoting and funding research that accelerates the development of effective treatments and therapies. In 2008, some additional priorities of the caucus will be to:
- Promote the translation of Down syndrome research into effective new treatments through interdisciplinary cooperation among the various NIH institutes, the FDA, the CDC and privately funded scientists and clinicians.
- To promote inclusiveness for people with Down syndrome.
- To help provide family support services and a community of care model.
- To protect the rights of those with Down syndrome and make sure those rights are being enforced."
In addition, the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus will be holding a briefing for Congressional staff on May 8 to discuss where we are in terms of Down syndrome research. A representative from the National Institutes of Health will be attending as well as Dr. Bill Mobley, the Director of the Neuroscience Institute from Stanford Medical School.
Call to Action
When you call your Representative's office about the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, also ask them to join the newly-formed Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus and to attend the May 8th briefing on Down syndrome research. For more information on the briefing he or she can contact Kristin Garesche at 202.225.2006.Sandy, Illinois (alpy2@...)
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