Alert! Call to Action on IDEA Fairness Act
Tuesday, May 6

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May 1, 2008

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In This Issue:


Call to Action on IDEA Fairness Restoration Act

Call In Day:
Tuesday, May 6

Your Game Plan

Why the IDEA Fairness Act Matters

Phone Tips

Learn More


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Alert! Call To Action on IDEA Fairness Act (H.R. 4188)
Tuesday May 6

Your Game Plan l Why IDEA Fairness Act Matters l Phone Tips l Learn More

woman speaking on phoneKids rely on their parents, family members, friends, child advocates, to speak on their behalf.

In this Alert, we asking you to step up to the plate on Tuesday, May 6 by calling your Congressional Representatives (202-224-3121) (TTY 202-225-1904) and asking that they co-sponsor H.R. 4188, the
IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (H.R. 4188).

The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act allows parents who prevail in due process or litigation under IDEA to be reimbursed for their expert witness fees — an expense few parents can afford.
This bipartisan bill will help to level the playing field for parents of children with disabilities.

Please forward this Alert to friends, family members, and co-workers.
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Call-in Day: Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Our goal is to organize and unite parents, child advocates, friends, and family members in every state and territory and have them send a clear, strong message to Members of Congress on Tuesday, May 6.

parents on phoneMom and dad: Make separate calls. Ask your child's grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to call too.

Groups: Do you belong to a parent group? Church group? Community service group? Ask the members of your group to call your Representative on Tuesday, May 6.

Co-workers: Yes. Ask your co-workers to call your Representative on Tuesday, May 6. Make it easy for them - give them your Representative's phone numbers.

Wouldn't it be great if we act together as a group with a common interest?

Wouldn't it be great if the phones in Congress rang off the wall on Tuesday, May 6?

Wouldn't it be great if Congressional staffers tell their bosses, "We are getting so many calls from parents and advocates asking us to co-sponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act - we need to pay attention!" With your help, we can make this happen!

Be a hero - speak up for the kids. After you call, you'll feel like you're 12 feet tall!

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Your Game Plan: Call or Meet with Your Representative’s Office

1. Find Your Representative. Go to http://www.house.gov and put your zip code into the box in the upper left corner.  You can also use http://www.congress.org to find this information.Congress


2. Meet
. The most powerful way to communicate is face-to face. If you can, schedule an appointment with a staff member for your Representative in their local district office this week so you can explain in person why he/she should cosponsor H.R. 4188.

3. Call. Every parent and child advocate who reads this Alert needs to call their Representative on Tuesday, May 6 and ask the Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 4188. This will only take a few minutes of your time. By working together, we will will have a tremendous impact.

Call the main switchboard at 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904) and ask for your Representative’s Office. Tell the staffer who answers the phone that you are a constituent and your role (i.e., a parent, a child advocate, a grandparent, a family friend). Ask your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.

Your message is simple:

"Please cosponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  Parents need your help to afford expert witnesses when they have to go to due process.  Please provide parents and kids with a fair, balanced playing field."

Ask your friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers to contact their Representatives on Tuesday, May 6 with a similar message:

"Please co-sponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  It is expensive for parents of children with disabilities to pay for medical and technical experts to support their child's case. Most parents cannot afford this expense on their own."

Tip: Ask for the Education Aide. If this person is not available, give your message to the person who answers the phone. if you get a voicemail, leave a message explaining who you are and that you want your Representative to co-sponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act - H.R. 4188. Call back again later. More Phone tips

If you can't make a long-distance call, go to your Representative's web site at http://www.house.gov.  to look up your Representative and get their local phone number.   You can also find their local phone numbers at http://www.congress.org


Please call on May 6. Do not send an email. We need Congress to hear our voices. When many people call, Congress listens.

 4. If you called earlier, call again. Your Representative needs to hear from all constituents. Repeating your message is fine. If you called your Representative a few weeks ago, please call again on May 6. If you cannot call on May 6, call within a day or two.

If for some reason you cannot call, you can email your Representative at Write Your Representative (http://www.house.gov/writerep).

For more information about this Alert, please contact Robert Berlow or Jessica Butler of COPAA at protectidea@copaa.org

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Why the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (H.R. 4188) is Important to Parents

The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act will override the Supreme Court's decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy (2006) and allow parents who prevail to be reimbursed for their expert witness fees. H.R. 4188 will help to level the playing field. H.R. 4188 is essential to protect the rights of 7 million children with disabilities and their parents.

Here are a few reasons why the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act is so important:

• When prevailing parents cannot recover expert costs, the playing field is neither level nor fair, and children are denied a free appropriate public education and other fundamental IDEA rights.
 
• Hiring qualified medical and technical expert witnesses can cost many thousands of dollars.  Few parents can afford this high cost, putting due process out of reach for most parents, who struggle to afford what their children with disabilities need.

• School districts use tax dollars to employ and pay for psychologists and other paid experts at IEP meetings and hearings.  Parents have fewer resources and yet must bear a greater financial burden. Approximately 36% of children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year; over 2/3 earn less than $50,000 a year.

• Congress intended for parents to recover their expert witness fees in the Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986.  H.R. 4188 will restore Congress' original intent.

• If parents cannot afford due process, the IEP process becomes even more one-sided and unfair.  School personnel control the IEP process and usually outnumber parents. The right to due process helps ensure that school districts provide free appropriate public educations to children with disabilities.

• Most parents turn to due process and litigation as a last resort. In 2003, the GAO reported that there were 5 due process hearings per 10,000 special education students. When parents are forced to request due process, they need expert witnesses to prevail.

Why the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act Matters

A Pennsylvania public interest organization represented the mother of 8th grade student with dyslexia and written expression disorders. The child had struggled to read and write all his life. The school district failed to provide a scientifically-based reading program so the child was failing.

His single mother was forced to request a due process hearing to implement the recommendations of an independent evaluator and obtain appropriate special education services for her child. This parent had to borrow $1,400 to pay the independent evaluator to testify. She also had to pay for the expert's time while being cross-examined by the school district for two days.  She won her due process case.

Because this case was decided before the Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy, the mother was able to recover her expert fees. But - if she had requested a due process hearing after Murphy, she would not be allowed to recover her expert witness fees. Without an expert, it would have been difficult to pursue the case if at all. The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act will ensure that parents can recover their expert witness fees.

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Phone Tips

Before you call your Representative's office on Tuesday, May 6, jot down the key points you want to make. Tell the person you speak with that you are a constituent and a parent and/or advocate, family member, friend. You are requesting that your Representative cosponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. 

Personal stories are important. If you can, explain how your child, or a child for whom you advocate, could be helped by the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. Explain to your member of Congress how hard it is for parents of children with disabilities to afford expert fees, in addition to the expense of raising a child with a disability. Explain that the due process system helps to ensure that parents are equal partners at the IEP table.

Won't it be great when the phones in Congress ring off the wall on Tuesday, May 6?

Won't it be great when Congressional staffers tell their bosses, "We are getting so many calls from parents and advocates asking us to cosponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act - we need to pay attention to them!"

When we take this step, and call our RepresentativeS, we can make the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act a reality!

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Learn More About the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act

The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act is supported by Wrightslaw and over 100 disability organizations.  Read the letters they sent to Congress on COPAA’s web page (http://www.copaa.org/news/organizations.html).

To learn more about the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, visit the IDEA Fairness page at http://www.copaa.org/news/ask_congress.html on the website of the Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates, Inc. (COPAA).

Download a brochure with more information and examples from http://www.copaa.org/pdf/MurphyBrochure.pdf

Information about the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act in Spanish is here: (http://www.copaa.org/pdf/MSSpanish.pdf)

Read the full text of the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, H.R. 4188. html l pdf l word

Read Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s statement in introducing the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (http://www.copaa.org/news/VHRemarks.html)

For more information about this Alert, please contact Robert Berlow or Jessica Butler of COPAA at protectidea@copaa.org

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