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Dear Mr. Edwards,
It has come to our attention that the great State of Oregon has returned $692,200 to the Federal Treasury on September 30, 2003. Our source is the recent AP article, Data show states return millions to feds instead of spending it on schools, by Nancy Zuckerbrod [http://www.detnews.com/2004/schools/0401/10/schools-31658.htm ]
As parents and advocates for Oregons disabled children, we would like to know why this money was not used for our children, wasting a scarce and substantial resource in scarce times.
Parents of children with disabilities who participate in countless IEP meetings across this state have been forced to beg for the Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that the Individual Disability Educational Act (IDEA) guarantees our children. We've pleaded for far too long with far too little success. Were told its too expensive, there is no money. Were told that by the nature of their disability our childrens needs are draining the regular educational budget. Its become an infuriatingly routine refrain, seemingly seeking to pit regular and special education parents against each other.
Now we are told our school districts actually had all this money for over three years yet they let well over a half million dollars just evaporate! Poof and it's gone! We can't tell you how this adds insult to the injury we have seen our children suffer in inadequate education services. We realize the money has to be spent a certain way. Yet we can't believe there wasn't any number of excellent ways to spend it, especially in these last three years -- years when many of our children were underserved, disserved, and in some cases not even served by school districts that just didnt have the money to accommodate the special needs of these Oregon citizens who happen to be disabled students.
As citizens, we deserve answers, an accurate accounting. We therefore request under Oregon Public Records law ORS 192.420 et. seq.
It is hard as taxpayers and parents of disabled children to vote for more money for education when Oregon does not spend or allocate whats given to them. According to the story above, the Bush administration says there is an additional 6 million dollars available to the states that could expire if the states dont use it. What is the game plan for Oregons share? Are we going to let more education money go unused?
The Oregon Department of Education has appealed to voters over and over again, citing strapped and declining budgets. Can you explain to us why Oregonians should give this agency more money when it is not spending the money they have? Where is the accountability? Todays students, both regular Ed and special Ed are Oregon's future.
This is an election year and with the statistically disturbing rise of children with disabilities, especially children with autistic spectrum disorders, there is a correlating rise of families who must deal with the education of disabled children. We are growing to be a significant voting block and educational issues catch our attention.
Thank you for allowing us to address this issue and we await your response to our questions.
Kristine A Fagler
Tom and Rose Case
Members of Oregon Parents United (OPU)
© Oregon Parents United 2004
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