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Alert!  Call To Action on Thursday, July 9
IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (H.R. 2740)

This Alert is at http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/fairness.act.09.htm

Help Parents Recover Expert Witness Fees and Level the Playing Field!

Dad on phonePlease call your Congressional Representative on Thursday, July 9. Ask him or her to co-sponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, H.R. 2740.

We would like to get as many cosponsors as possible so the bill passes.  Your call can help make that happen!

Dial 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904) and ask for your Representative. How to find your representative.

School districts can use tax dollars to employ and pay for psychologists and other technical experts. 

Few parents can afford the thousands of dollars needed to pay for expert testimony that is necessary to prevail in IDEA due process hearings and litigation. Parents have fewer resources and yet must bear a greater financial burden.

The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, H.R. 2740, is necessary to allow parents to recover their expert witness fees.  It will restore Congress’ original intent.  This bipartisan bill, introduced by Congressman Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Pete Sessions (Texas), will help level the playing field and make the right to due process affordable for parents across America.

Why is it Important to Co-Sponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (H.R. 2740)?

Key Points to Share with Your Congressman's Office

The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act will override the Supreme Court's decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy (2006) and allow parents who prevail in due process or litigation to be reimbursed for their expert witness fees.

When prevailing parents cannot recover expert costs, the playing field is neither level nor fair, and children are denied a free appropriate public education and other fundamental IDEA rights.

  • Hiring qualified medical, technical, and other expert witnesses can cost many thousands of dollars.   Few parents can afford this high cost, putting due process out of reach for most parents, who struggle to afford what their children with disabilities need.
  • School districts use tax dollars to pay for psychologists and other paid experts.   Parents have fewer resources and yet must bear a greater financial burden. 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.
  • Congress intended for parents to recover their expert witness fees in the Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986.  Allowing parents to recoup their expert fees simply restores Congress' original intent.
  • If due process is not affordable, the IEP process becomes even more one-sided and unfair.  School personnel control the IEP process and often vastly outnumber parents.  When the right to due process is meaningful, it helps ensure that school districts provide appropriate educations to children with disabilities.
  • 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.  But when parents are forced into due process, they should be able to afford expert witnesses.

Mom on phoneExamples of What This Means to Parents

A Pennsylvania a mother was forced to go to due process to implement the Independent Educational Evaluation recommendations for her child with severe dyslexia and a written expression disorder.   She had to borrow $1,400 to pay the evaluator to testify, and for two days of cross-examination by the school district.  The parent prevailed and the child received the reading instruction he needed. Before the Supreme Court’s Murphy decision, the mother could recover her expert fees; after Murphy, she would not.

Similarly, a Special Education Advocate observed, “Since [Murphy], I have had no fewer than three clients who had to withdraw their request for a hearing, and no fewer than five clients who wanted to request a hearing but did not, due to the fact that they could not afford witness fees and costs.”

How to Call Your Congressman

Call Congress on Thursday, July 9, 2009. Ask Your Representative to Co-Sponsor H.R. 2740.

On Thursday, July 9, 2009 , please call your Congressional Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 2740, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  Ask friends, colleagues, clients, and family members to call too.  It will only take a few minutes.

Dial 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904).  This is the main switchboard. Ask for your Congressperson's office.  

Tip: It helps to ask for the Education Aide, but you can also talk to the person who answers the phone.  If you get voicemail, please leave a message.  Tell them you are a constituent and would like the Congressperson to co-sponsor H.R. 2740, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.   Use some of the talking points above.

To Find Your Representative. If you do not know who your Congressional Representative is, go to http://www.house.gov and put your zip code into the box in the upper left corner.   (You usually only need your five digit zip code.) 

You can also find direct dial numbers for your Representative, including local numbers, on your Representative’s webpage at http://www.house.gov

Please call your representatives instead of using email. Many calls will attract attention to our cause, and Congress needs to hear from us.  But if it is impossible for you to call, then please email through http://www.house.gov/writerep.  If you cannot call or use TTY but support our cause, we encourage you to contact Congress, too.  But if you can make a call, please do so. Calls get more attention!

If you called earlier, call again. Your Representative needs to hear from all constituents. Repeating your message is fine. If you called your Representative a few weeks ago, please call again on july 9. If you cannot call on July 9, call within a day or two.

If you signed the petition, it's important to make a call.  The petition is going to Congress' leadership.  But parents and advocates need to call their individual Representatives for support.

Learn More Details About the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act

Spanish Language Information. (En Espanol) El jueves 9 de julio, llame por favor a su representante del Congreso, 202-224-3121 (TTY: (202-225-1904).  Pida que el congreso pase el acta de restauración de la imparcialidad de IDEA, H.R. 2740. Lea aqui en Español sobre los derechos de los padres a recuperar el costo de testigos expertos: http://www.copaa.org/pdf/MSSpanish.pdf

The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act is supported by Wrightslaw and over 200 disability organizations.

Over 200 organizations support the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, including the Arc, the Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates, Inc. (COPAA), Easter Seals, National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC), National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), LDA, DREDF, TASH, CHADD, Center for Law and Education, Epilepsy Foundation, Autism Society of America, United Cerebral Palsy, Our Children Left Behind, and many others.

In addition, over 2100 individuals have signed a petition asking Congress to pass the bill.  Both the organizational and individual sign-ons will be posted on COPAA’s webpage shortly at http://www.copaa.org.

Download COPAA's complete brochure on the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act with full talking points, http://www.copaa.org/pdf/MurphyBrochure.pdf

You can read H.R. 2740 here: http://www.copaa.net/publicpolicy/HR2740bill.php

The Spanish language brochure is at http://www.copaa.org/pdf/MSSpanish.pdf

For more information about H.R. 2740 and this alert, please contact COPAA at protectidea@copaa.org

Thank you.

Bob Berlow and Jessica Butler
Government Affairs Co-Chairs
Denise Marshall, Executive Director
Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates, Inc. (COPAA)
a national voice for special education rights and advocacy

email: protectidea@copaa.org

Created: 06/26/09
Updated: 07/01/09

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