Delayed Thanks To Senators Gregg & Kennedy
MAY 3, 2004
DELAYED THANKS TO SENATORS GREGG AND KENNEDY
MAY DAY CALL-IN: Today is the parents’ May Day call-in to the Senate. As we write this, S.1248, the Senate bill purportedly “reauthorizing” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA], remains scheduled for Senate action this week. The National Association of School Boards [NASB] is prompting its members to call their Senators to urge them to bring S.1248 up for a vote. Our Senators and school organizations like the NASB need to know that we parents are following S.1248 and will oppose efforts to weaken or gut IDEA. Please take a few moments today to call, e-mail or fax your Senators to remind them that we are watching, and that people with disabilities and their parents and family members vote.
S.1248 UPDATE: In a related vein, we have an unconfirmed report that the Senate has removed S.1248 from its calendar. If true, the removal signals a strong likelihood that S.1248 will not make it to the Senate floor during the remaining weeks of this Congress. Our Children Left Behind [OCLB] is trying to confirm the report and will post any new information as we receive it. As of now, S.1248 remains alive on the Senate calendar and is scheduled for debate this week.
TODAY’S COMMENTARY: When H.R.1350 was introduced in March, 2003 few people expected that the IDEA Reauthorization process would still be pending a year later. We all thought it would be a done deal by Memorial Day. Any hope of slowing or stopping the reauthorization process seemed to be pure folly. Still, parents and advocacy organizations worked to educate and mobilize families to work to save IDEA.
Now, 14 months after the official reauthorization process started, we possibly stand at the edge of victory. We parents and consumer-based organizations certainly have made a difference in the IDEA battle. We have established that the families and supporters of 6.5 million children who have special needs remain determined to protect the children’s fundamental right to receive a free public education. We have honored our forerunners with our efforts.
But we parents, families and organizations have not labored alone. There would be no OCLB Home page today if Senators Gregg and Kennedy and their staffs had ignored our protestations over H.R.1350 last spring. H.R.1350’s primary sponsors deliberately and hostilely excluded parents and families from the legislative process. The House legislation completely destroyed IDEA’s discipline and due process measures and severely weakened its individualized educational programming components. The House leadership was resolute in its desire to shove the bill down the throats of America’s children who receive IDEA services.
Senators Gregg and Kennedy did not ignore us. After H.R.1350 passed in a largely partisan vote, they took six weeks to write a bill, S.1248, that restored some measure of fairness to the educational process. They then opened the dialogue and their offices to the parents and advocacy organizations. They asked us what we thought about S.1248. When that input process ended, they addressed some of our concerns by changing the bill. We have not thanked them enough for their work.
Parents and organizations have been vexed over these past several months about what to do with S.1248. The question of supporting S.1248 seems to depend in part on where the attention is focused. If one primarily looks at H.R.1350, then S.1248 is a vast improvement that should be supported wholeheartedly. Those using this perspective assert that failing to support S.1248 is tantamount to supporting H.R.1350 because Congress is going to change IDEA, and S.1248 is the best we are going to get from this or any Congress. This is the politically pragmatic way to go, they argue.
If, however, one is focused on current law -- IDEA ‘97 -- then S.1248 is bad legislation because it takes away current rights upon which the fundamental fairness and equality of education for students with disabilities depend. Supporters of this approach, including us, feel that IDEA’s core protections must remain intact if the children and the parents are to have a meaningful opportunity to benefit from education. Our motto – Let It ‘B’ – is a testament to the decades of work that went into creating and implementing IDEA, and a recognition that some factions of American society remain clearly unsympathetic to the rights and needs of children who have disabilities.
A year ago, when H.R.1350 steamed through a gutless House of Representatives, political pragmatism did seem to favor taking the lesser of two evils approach. Back then any alternative bill would have been inviting. The Senate, and particularly Senators Gregg and Kennedy and their staffs, gave families new hope by their efforts to restore some fairness to the legislative process, and by introducing S.1248.
We think it is unfortunate that the current posture of the reauthorization debate forces parents and consumer-based organizations into taking positions against each other. But being forced to choose, we unwaveringly favor retaining IDEA ‘97 over supporting S.1248. We take this position with tremendous thanks for the work of Senators Gregg and Kennedy, who gave parents the time and opportunity to mount a defense of IDEA. The fire of battle can force its participants to forget past activities. We would not be where we are today in the IDEA reauthorization war absent their efforts.
Please be sure to call your senators today. We urge you to tell them to vote ‘NO’ on S.1248. But please remember at the same time that this May Day call-in opportunity was brought to you in part by the Senate, who heard our voices last spring. Be sure to thank them for listening.
Tricia & Calvin Luker, today's parentvolunteer@...
©2004 Our Children Left Behind.
Our Children Left Behind [OCLB] was created and is owned/operated by parent volunteers (Sandy Alperstein, Tricia & Calvin Luker, Shari Krishnan, and Debi Lewis). Permission to forward, copy, and/or post this article is granted provided that it is unedited and attributed to the author(s) and www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com. For more about OCLB or to share information, please contact parentvolunteer@....