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In September, the Senate is likely to consider bills to water down the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The House of Representatives already passed a bill gutting the IDEA. Now, its the Senates turn to consider its bill, S. 1248. The current Senate bill, S. 1248, protects kids better than the House bill, but still waters down the rights of disabled children. Amendments to water it down even more are expected in September. The Senate Republican Policy Committee has urged Senators to replace the Senate bill with the much worse House bill (H.R. 1350). The American Academy of Pediatrics, Children's Defense Fund, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and others believe the House bill will hurt disabled kids.
Learn about the issues and contact your Senators now (go to http://www.senate.gov or call your Senators, 202-224-3121). School districts have been lobbying hard--with paid lobbyists--and parents are not being heard. Let your Senators hear you. Send an email or fax today and send this information to others.
* Efforts To Prevent The No Child Left Behind Act From Applying To Children With Disabilities
Lamar Alexander (TN) plans to introduce a bill that would let schools
not count scores from kids with disabilities to determine NCLB compliance.
This will result in two tracks: kids whose scores are counted and
get the services they need to improve academics and pass the tests;
and kids in special education whose scores are not counted and don't
Under the current IDEA, kids who are dangerous or sell drugs can be removed from the classroom. But, the House would let schools exclude children from the classroom for any school conduct code violations, even if the misbehavior was caused by their disabilities or they didn't understand what they did wrong, such as diabetic kids who eat in class, kids with autism or ADHD who jump up, don't raise their hands, etc.; children who act out because they can't communicate.
Drop out rates are high for kids moved to alternative settings. This is a backdoor way for teachers who don't want mainstreamed kids to get them out of the classroomsomething they can't do right now. The Senate bill lets kids stay in the classroom if the disability caused misbehavior, but the Senate Republican Policy Committee wants the Senate to take the House approach.
The Senate bill would let schools to put children in alternative settings if the SCHOOL DECIDES the misbehavior DID NOT result from the disability, even if a hearing officer reverses the school. The school, not the parents, decide. GAO studies show that there is no good data to justify changing the current discipline rules in the IDEA.
Proposed Changes May Be a Back Door To Avoid The No Child Left Behind Act
Schools don't have to count test scores of kids who were not in the same school for an entire year, so schools have an incentive to move kids to alternative placements, even if they know that a hearing officer will later rule that the decision was wrong.
The Senate recognizes that disabled children should meet the same educational expectations as other children "to the maximum extent possible" while the House bill would only give them access to the general curriculum, meaning opening schoolhouse doors but providing inferior educations. Tell your Senators to keep the Senate language and reject H.R. 1350's section 602(8)(c).
Eliminates short-term objectives and benchmarks from IEPs
Short-term objectives and benchmarks are important markers that help school districts fix problems during the year.
The House would allow 3-year IEPs. And the House would get rid of short-term objectives and benchmarks except for the most severely disabled children.
bill will get rid of short-term objectives, but require schools to
give parents reports on IEP progress when they give report cards.
This is not good enough.
No Child Left Behind testing is not a substitute for short-term objectives, because the tests only cover academic subjects; they have nothing to do with to speech, physical, social, or behavior goals that so many of our kids have in their IEPs. And, for children with severe disabilities that would not take the NCLB tests, there will be no accountability under the Senate bill.
Important Procedural Protections for Parents
or Eliminates Recovery of Attorneys Fees by Parents
Requirements for Functional Behavior Assessments & Behavior Intervention
This could mean eliminating written IEPs, Prior Written Notice, Information for Parents about Rights, and even Progress Reports. This could make the IDEA unenforceable and get rid of school accountability. Tell the Senate to reject amendments that would allow this.
For a more complete analysis and description of each of these points, go to http://www.geocities.com/protectidea (It also includes links to statements by organizations about the IDEA bills)
Other good sources of information are
http://schwablearning.org/articles.asp?g=2&r=728 (short-term objectives)
CONTACT YOUR SENATORS NOW - please do not delay.
You can find your Senators at http://www.Senate.gov and get their email, phone (local and Washington DC), and fax numbers. You can also call the main Senate and House number, 202-224-3121 or look up local numbers in the blue pages of your phone book.
Please send email or fax. Do not send regular mail because anthrax screening will delay letters for up to 3 weeks. A fax is taken more seriously because it is harder to do than email. An email is good, especially if you call the Senator's office to follow up.
Be sure to include your full address in correspondence. Senate office computers reject emails without zip codes from in-state. (Members of the House can be found at http://www.house.gov)
It is not enough to sign petitions about the IDEA. Congressional offices only pay attention to correspondence from their own constituents. They virtually ignore petitions. So, please send your own email!
Get your friends and family members to write emails and faxes; you can even help grandma and grandpa write them. Tell your elected officials how important the IDEA is and that they should not water it down!