More About The National Contact Campaign
- OUR CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND
** WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW **A National Contact Campaign Begins
Thursday, June 3, 2004
And will continue until IDEA is safe from harmful changes!Beginning June 3, 2004, parents and advocates in each state are asked to contact state and local chapters, parents and parent support groups, service and advocacy agencies who share the commitment to preserving a strong Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Then together we will reach out to our fellow citizens and state and local elected officials and urge them to assist us in stopping the weakening of the IDEA. We will ask them to stand with us and to call The White House and our members of Congress with a clear and consistent message:The House and the Senate Bills are harmful to students with disabilities and leave our children behind!
OPPOSE the Conference Committee Report!
Tell them that a Conference Committee consisting of representatives from the House and Senate could be appointed at any time.
Help everyone understand that the next step for the Conference Committee will be to reconcile the differences between the two bills.
Committee members usually adopt language from either the House or Senate bills or agree on additional language and then write those agreements into a Committee Report.
It is the Committee Report that will be referred to Members of the House and Senate for their approval!
BACKGROUND AND TALKING POINTS:
Last Spring the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.1350, its version of a bill to amend and reauthorize IDEA. This bill was opposed by virtually every parent and advocacy organization in the nation because it greatly weakens the current IDEA law.
Two weeks ago the U.S. Senate passed S. 1248, its version of the bill. The Senate bill is an improvement over the House bill in some respects, but it also significantly weakens the current IDEA law.
Listed below are a number of provisions in the proposed House and Senate bills that will weaken the rights and protections of children with disabilities.
• The Senate bill eliminates required short term objectives in the Individualized Education Program, and the House bill eliminates them for all but students with the most significant disabilities.
• Both bills will allow for three year IEPs. The House bill will allow them for all students, while the Senate bill will allow them for students who are in their final three years of school. Both undermine efforts to close the achievement gap and to hold schools accountable to parents.
• Both bills will make it more difficult for families to pursue their right to due process. The Senate bill seeks to intimidate parents from participation in exercising due process by threatening sanctions, and the House bill seeks to limit the fees of parents’ attorneys when parents are prevailing parties.
• Neither bill requires full funding of IDEA at the promised funding level to support the additional cost of educating students receiving special education services. (Despite the fact that the Federal government only funds about 18% of the total cost of educating students with disabilities).
• The House bill permits 10 states and the Senate bill permits 15 states to negotiate paperwork reductions with the US Department of Education without having defined “paperwork” and without seeking input from parents and advocates on what those reductions should entail.
• Both bills weaken current protections for students with disabilities by making it much easier for schools to suspend or expel them, even when the behavior is part of the student’s disability. Both bills guarantee that these children’s education will be disrupted and that they will fall further behind because both bills eliminate the right of a non-dangerous, non-disruptive child to “stay-put” in his/her current educational placement when his/her parent complains about a suspension of more than 10 days or an expulsion, about punishing the child for his/her disability, or punishing the child whose disability is ignored and inappropriately addressed by poorly developed IEPs or even appropriate IEPs not implemented by highly qualified teachers.
• The Senate bill changes the definition of related services by excluding "a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the post-surgical maintenance, programming, or replacement of such device, or an external device connected with the use of a surgically implanted medical device (other than the costs of performing routine maintenance and monitoring of such external device at the same time the child is receiving other services under this Act)." How this exception will be interpreted is a concern for families of children with trachs, G-tubes, percutaneous cecostomies, and other surgically implanted devices that can and do come out at school and need to be replaced and/or maintained by school nurses or aides.
• The Senate bill creates an exception to FAPE by allowing children eligible for Sec. 619 preschool services to stay in Part C (early intervention programs) if they give up their right to FAPE. This provision is likely to be a source of confusion and school manipulation as schools shift costs to private providers, and will likely result in a system whereby the quality and intensity of services will be based on parent(s)’s income rather than the child’s needs.It is almost certain that any bill emerging from the Conference Committee will substantially weaken protections for children with disabilities and compromise their right to access a high quality education.
Parents and advocates can find out who their Representatives and Senators are and get their telephone numbers at www.congress.org, or they can call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at1-800-839-5276. The White House number is 202-456-1111.
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