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The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
April 21, 2003


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Issue - 211

ISSN: 1538-3202
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IDEA Threatened - Kids Need Our Help on April 29

Call to Action - April 29, 2003

Your Game Plan: Meet, Write, Call

Proposed Changes to IDEA

Personal Stories

Letter Writing Tips

Phone Tips

Subscription & Contact Info
 



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Alert! IDEA Threatened - Kids Need Our Help on April 29!

On April 10, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce voted to send H.R. 1350, "Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act" to the House floor. The House is expected to vote on the bill within the next two weeks.

The bill weakens IDEA in significant ways that will harm children with disabilities. The bill introduces "optional" 3-year IEPs; eliminates IEP objectives and benchmarks; weakens procedural safeguards and protections for parents and kids; allows schools to suspend or expel kids who have behavior problems related to their disabilities for violating school "codes of conduct".

Please download and distribute this Alert: http://www.wrightslaw.com/nltr/03/al.0421.htm

Call to Action - April 29, 2002

Kids rely on parents, family members, teachers, and child advocates to speak up on their behalf.

On Tuesday, April 29, 2003, parents of kids with disabilities and child advocates need to to take action. On Tuesday, April 29, contact your Representative and explain that you oppose changes to the IDEA that are included in H.R. 1350. Your message is simple:

"Vote NO on H.R. 1350. It's a bad IDEA. It will hurt our children."

Ask your friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers to contact members of the House on Tuesday, April 29 with the same message:

"Vote NO on H.R. 1350. It's a bad IDEA. It will hurt children with disabilities."

Representatives from several groups including ARC, LDA, National Down Syndrome Congress, NAPAS, Easter Seals, CHADD, and COPAA chose April 29, 2003 as the National Call-in, Write-in, and Visit Your Representative Day. These groups will focus on members of the House of Representatives because they may vote on H.R. 1350 as early as April 30.

Our goal is to get calls and letters from parents in every state.

Your Game Plan: Meet, Write, Call

1. Meet. The most powerful way to communicate is face-to face. If you can, schedule an appointment with your Representative in his/her district office this week so you can explain your objections in person.

2. Write. The second most powerful way to communicate is by writing a short letter and faxing it to your Representative. Faxes are far more effective than emails. Scroll down to get your Representative's fax numbers (including local fax #s) and letter writing tips.

3. Call. Follow up your letter with a phone call to your representative's office. Phone tips

Why You Must Act

Kids can't vote. Parents MUST show Congress that the IDEA is good law. Parents MUST rebut school districts' claims that the system is too difficult and doesn't work for them.

If you do not take action, the result is likely to be a law that will hurt our children. Please help us defeat this bill.

Here are some of the problems in H.R. 1350:

* Introduces "optional" 3-year IEPs
* Removes short-term objectives & benchmarks from IEPs

* Introduces "optional" voluntary arbitration
* Requires parents to give "specific notice" of due process complaints
* Allows governors to set attorneys fees
* Does not require full (40%) federal funding of IDEA
* Destroys discipline protections and provisions (functional behavior assessments, behavior intervention plans, manifestation determinations)

Learn About Proposed Changes to IDEA

The National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems (NAPAS) developed an Analysis of Proposed Changes to IDEA as a side-by-side table that compares the current IDEA with the proposed bill. We converted the Analysis of Proposed Changes to IDEA into a pdf file for easy printing and distribution.

http://www.wrightslaw.com/news/2003/idea.house.sidebyside.napas.pdf

We encourage you to read the Analysis of Proposed Changes to IDEA - this document will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of the bill before you share your concerns with your member of Congress.

Personal Stories

Personal stories are important. Explain how your child, or a child for whom you advocate, will be hurt by the proposed changes.

Explain why this bill will turn back the clock, harm children, or lead to increased costs to society if children with disabilities don't get the education they need to "prepare them for employment and independent living" (§1400(d) Purposes of IDEA statute)

Here are some examples that you can tailor to your own experiences.

* 3 year IEPs & Elimination of short-term objectives & benchmarks

Describe how regular assessment of your child's progress enabled you to identify problems and revise your child's IEP to address these problems before the child fell further behind. Now that your child is receiving more intensive services, your child is doing well and making good progress. Explain how a two- or three-year delay would have damaged your child.

* Discipline

Assume your child faced discipline problem at school because he violated a school rule. A manifestation hearing was held. Because of protections in the IDEA, the school did not suspend or expel him. The school completed a functional behavior assessment, then designed a behavior intervention plan that prevented similar occurrences. Thanks to the mandatory IDEA discipline procedures, your child is doing well.

* No Funds for Services

Assume your child needs more intensive services - more speech therapy or one-on-one reading instruction. The IEP team or principal said there isn't enough money to provide more intensive services because Congress did not provide funds they promised. The proposed bill (HR 1350) does not include full funding so the school will still not have enough funds to provide your child with the needed services. In your letter, you might say, "The school district does not have enough money to help my child because my government isn't doing its part. This proposed law will hurt my child."

Letter-Writing Tips

Keep your letter short. Focus on one or two key points. Every member of Congress gets hundreds of letters a day. Their staff do not have time to wade through long letters.

Offer to follow-up with a phone call or visit. Send your letter by fax, not email.

Download these one-page tip sheets for writing letters.

Letter Writing Tips: http://www.fetaweb.com/05/ltrs.tips.pdf

Nuts & Bolts of Letter-Writing: http://www.fetaweb.com/05/ltrs.nuts.bolts.pdf

Why Not Send Letter by Email?

Why not send your letter by email? Good question. Email is too easy!

Congressional staffers know it takes more time and effort to send a fax or call than to send an email. Faxing your letter means you are serious. If you cannot fax your letter, send an email - then follow up with a phone call!

If you are concerned about the cost to send a fax to your Representative's Washington office, you can fax your letter to your Representative's local office. To get the local and DC phone and fax numbers for all members of Congress, go to Congress.org
http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/

If you do not know who your Representative is, put your zipcode into the box on the front page. Click *INFO* below his/her name for phone and fax numbers.

If you know who your Representative is and want to call their Washington office on April 29, you can get the phone numbers from our House of Representatives Directory:

http://www.wrightslaw.com/news/2003/house.numbers.pdf

You can also find the local phone numbers in the Blue Pages of your phone directory under Federal Government.

Phone Tips

Before you call your Representative's office on Tuesday, April 29, jot down the key points you want to make. Be prepared to tell the person you speak with why you are opposed to H.R. 1350. You will have about 3 minutes to get your message across.

Wouldn't it be great if the phones in Washington rang off the wall on Tuesday, April 29?

Wouldn't it be great if Congressional staffers told their bosses, "We are getting tons of calls from parents and advocates about H.R. 1350 - we need to pay attention to them!"

We can make it happen!


Subscription & Contact Info

The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special education legal and advocacy issues, cases, and tactics and strategies. Subscribers receive "alerts" about new cases, events, and special offers on Wrightslaw books.

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Yellow Pages for Kids - http://www.fetaweb.com/help/states.htm

Contact Info

Pete and Pam Wright
Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043
Website: http://www.wrightslaw.com
Email: newsletter@wrightslaw.com


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