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Burden of Proof on Schools?
Virginia Senate Holds Hearings on Scholarships for Children with Disabilities
On Thursday, January 26, 2006 the Education and Health Committee of the Virginia Senate heard testimony on Senate Bill 241 [http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?061+ful+SB241] which would amend the special education statute to include a statement that:
Questions from some of the Senators reflected concerns about the possibility of increased costs to school districts because of a fear of increased litigation.
In response to these concerns, Mr. Hurd provided data about four states that place the burden of proof on school districts and that had no due process hearings during the previous year.
Pete Wright testified that he expected the number of due process hearings to decrease because schools would be motivated to negotiate with parents instead of drawing lines in the sand and saying, "This is the program we will provide - take it or leave it." Fewer hearings will lead to a decrease in the costs of litigation.
On Thursday morning, the fate of Senate Bill 241 was uncertain. Would SB 241 be reported out of committee or would it die?
During the hearing, Senator Janet Howell advised that she too, had a child with an IEP. Fearing that SB 241 might be defeated, Senator Howell proposed that the Bill be carried over, and that a special committee be appointed to study the financial impact of the Bill and report their findings to the Committee.
The Senators voted. Senators Edwards and Martin voted against the proposal to carry the Bill over. The majority of Senators voted to carry the Bill over to next year and to appoint a special committee to study the financial impact.
Hearings on Private School Scholarship Program for Children with Disabilities
“Establishes a scholarship program on behalf of disabled students in the Commonwealth to provide scholarships to a private school of choice for students with disabilities for whom an individual education plan has been written. The student's parent also has the option to enroll the student in another public school in the division, or in another public school in an adjacent division. Only nonsectarian private schools in Virginia holding a license to operate as a school for students with disabilities may participate in the Scholarship Program. The bill also requires the Board of Education to issue guidelines to aid local school divisions and private schools in the implementation of the Program.” [http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=061&typ=bil&val=sb545&Submit=Go]