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H.R. 1350 Passes, Senate Bill Due By Memorial Day
Why? l What Next? l Game Plan l Educate Your Senator

"QUOTE ."- Pete Wright

On April 30, 2003, the House of Representatives voted 251-171 to approve H. R. 1350, the Republican bill to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The New York Times reported, "The bill is intended to reduce the number of students deemed learning disabled by helping struggling children earlier. It is also intended to cut down on the paperwork involved in special education, and reduce the legal expenses of states that face lawsuits from parents seeking extra help for disabled children. It passed 251 to 171, with 34 Democrats joining Republicans to support the bill."

"Today's bill would allow schools to expel disabled students if they violate a school's code of conduct, and schools would no longer be obligated to determine whether the misbehavior was connected to a child's disability. The bill also allows governors to limit the amount states pay the lawyers of parents who win cases that force local schools to pay for extra services."

"The Council for Exceptional Children, the Children's Defense Fund, and other groups representing disabled children and their parents stood squarely against today's bill."

Why?

Despite your calls and letters on National Call in Day, some Representatives said they knew nothing about H.R. 1350. [Read Pete's letter to our Representative, Joanne Davis]

We also learned that Republican Representatives received a "Dear Colleague Letter" advising them that they would receive calls on April 29, that these calls were part of a coordinated effort to spread false information about the bill, and that the calls and contacts would contain incomplete, misleading, and false info by "opponents of improving the nation's special education law." http://edworkforce.house.gov/issues/108th/education/idea/dcfacts042903.htm

Republican Members of Congress also received a letter in support of H. R. 1350 from the school administrators association.

What Next?

The House bill is the first step in what may be a long process to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Senate will introduce their bill to reauthorize the IDEA in late May, before the Memorial Day recess. We understand that the Senate bill will be a bi-partisan bill. Senator Judd Gregg, R-NH, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, issued a statement praising the House for passing H.R. 1350:

"We intend to complete our bipartisan negotiations on the Senate version of the IDEA reauthorization and introduce our bill by the Memorial Day recess. We will mark-up the bill shortly thereafter."

On April 30, two Senators, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, introduced a bill to require the federal government to fully fund special education.

After the Senate committee introduces their bill to reauthorize the IDEA, the bill may be amended based on input the Senate receives from others, including you!

After the bill is amended, it will be voted on by the full Senate.

At this point, there will be two different versions of the IDEA. Members of the House and Senate will meet to iron out the differences between the two bills. If the House and Senate are not able to resolve their differences, the reauthorization process will begin again next year.

NOTE: This happened when IDEA was reauthorized last time - the Senate and House were unable to develop a compromise that was acceptable to both sides. The primary issue of disagreement was discipline. After several "off the record" meetings, the law was finally reauthorized in 1997.

Game Plan & Homework Assignment

We are working with Sue Heath, Wrightslaw Research Editor, to develop a Game Plan that uses your state's educational results to:

(1) educate your Senators about special education issues and outcomes, and
(2) answer questions about how the proposed changes to IDEA will improve educational outcomes.

As Sue points out, Senators will base their decisions about IDEA on what they know about Washington and what they know about their states. It is important that we use facts to educate Senators. We will publish this Game Plan within the next few days.

In the meantime, your Homework Assignment is to get the educational outcomes for your state.

1. Download "State Education Indicators with a Focus on Title I" (published by the U.S. Department of Education) - this publication has important information about your state's educational results.

http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/PES/esed/2002_indicators/titlepage.html

2. Get your state's educational profile.

Go to the State Profile page:

http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/PES/esed/2002_indicators/alabama/alabama.html

Scroll down the left side and click the link for your state.

This will take you to the page with information about your state's educational results. Click the last link - "Printable version of this profile" - for a 2 page document that lists this information.

* School and Teacher Demographics
* Student Demographics
* Statewide Accountability Information
* Title I Schools
* Assessment Information
* Student Achievement 1999-2000
* NAEP State Results
* Printable version of this profile (PDF format)

For most states, you will see the percentage of children who are proficient in reading /language arts and math at different grade levels and in various categories (race/ethnicity, low-income, limited English, children with disabilities, migratory children).

NOTE: Some states have not reported this information yet. If your state profile does not include this information, you may want to contact your No Child Left Behind representative [add link] to find out when this information will be available.

3. Print several copies of your state's 2 page educational profile.

How to Educate Your Senators

Jamie Ruppman, Director Governmental Relations for TASH, has this advice.

Call, fax and email your Senators. Send letters to your local papers and media outlets.

This is not rocket science, but it is hard work.

The issues that you as parents and advocates objected to in HR 1350 are on the table -- why do you object to them, what are these new provisions and, as important, reductions and eliminations of rights and protections going to mean for your child and the children you represent?

FOCUS ON THE SENATORS WHO ARE NOT ON THE Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

While the House was debating and voting on HR 1350, parents from the Parent Coalition to Save IDEA, Down Syndrome Society and TASH called on every Republican members of the HELP Committee and left our letters outlining the most damaging parts of HR 1350. Most of their staff are pretty much aware of what's been going on, but now that Senator Gregg has released a statement supporting HR 1350 (he chairs the HELP Committee), the other Sentors will be looking to the leadership to fill them in on what they "need to know" about the IDEA.

GET THERE FIRST!

Bob Berlow, parent attorney and COPAA member, says,

When the Senate bill is introduced, we will have two weeks to make a difference. The Senate bill will go to mark up, and then to the Senate floor for a vote.

People need to start now. The people I talked to on Capital Hill tell me they are not hearing from parents who oppose the bill, or are not hearing from parents in the numbers required.

Parents, advocates, friends, and family should fax letters to your Senators NOW. Tell your Senator to reject the harmful provisions of H.R. 1350 and act to protect children with disabilities. It is important to educate the people who are writing this bill now, while the bill is being drafted.

Have friends, families, members of social clubs, houses of worship, etc. contact Congress. You never know who has a relative or friend who is politically connected. Private therapists, pediatricians, and health care providers can fax letters.

Twenty-one Senators are on the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee. These Senators (or their staff members) will draft the Senate bill. We need to educate these Senators now, while they are drafting the bill.

Candace Cortiella of the Advocacy Institute tells you how you can take action.

Use the National Center for Learning Disabilities' Legislative Action Center to:

1. SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR SENATORS

Go to: http://capwiz.com/ld/issues/alert/?alertid=2086276&type=CO

Enter your Zip Code and click GO.

Compose your letter - use the preformatted letter as a starting point - pick your favorite issue(s) - there's a list of thirteen -- add personal stories, etc.

You can email OR CHOOSE THE LETTER OPTION, print out your letter and FAX TO THE SENATE.

Then CALL the offices and talk to them about your concerns.

2. TELL THE MEDIA

Let's get some press on what Congress is doing to the rights of kids with disabilities!

Go to: http://capwiz.com/ld/issues/alert/?alertid=1957851&type=ME

Enter your Zip Code, then choose the media outlets to receive your message.

Last week more than 5000 messages to the media went out via this alert!

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