The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
April 30, 2004

ISSN: 1538-3202

In this Issue

May Day! National Call-in Day is May 3

States Request Relief from IDEA Compliance

IDEA Amendments are a Bad IDEA - Let It Go!

IDEA Reauthorization Issues & Talking Points

Wrightslaw Programs: AL, FL, CA

Subscription and Contact Info

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IDEA Alert - Senate to Vote on IDEA; Call-In Day

Our sources in Washington, DC say that Senate Bill 1248 to Reauthorize IDEA may come to the Senate floor for a vote on Wednesday, May 5, 2004.

This Alert includes requests for action from two special ed advocacy groups. While different groups have different views on Senate Bill 1248 (see below), most agree that the current IDEA is a good law that is often not enforced. (Note: The voting date may change, depending on events)

If you are the parent of a child with a disability, you represent your child's interests. You need to stay informed about changes to the law that will affect your child. If you are a teacher or special education service provider, the reauthorized law will affect you and your job.

1. May Day! National Call-in Day is Monday, May 3, 2004

Several groups, including TASH, the League of SpecialEd Voters, and Our Children Left Behind have organized a national “May Day! Save Our Students” call-in day, Monday, May 3, 2004. The purpose of the national call-in day is to refresh Senators' memories about objections to this bill.

When you call your Senators, tell them that S.1248 will hurt our children by:

* removing short-term objectives from IEPs
* allowing children with disabilities to be removed from classrooms for non-disruptive, non-dangerous behaviors
* restricting the due process rights of families

To get the names and contact information of your Senators, go to www.senate.gov or call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or 800-839-5276.

Call President Bush 202-456-1111
Call Senator Frist 202-224-3344
Call Senator Kerry 202-224-2742

Sample Call-In Script

These groups suggest that you use a script to help you remember what you want to say. First, say your child’s name (or the name of the child about whom you are calling) early and often in the conversation. The Senate aide needs to know that she/he is talking to a family member, not an organizational lobbyist or representative.

When you speak to the Senator’s office, say that you need to speak with someone about your Senate Bill 1248 concerns (instead of just saying you oppose S. 1248). Your Senators need to know why you oppose S.1248.

If the aide asks about your ideal resolution of the issue, tell her/him that the current IDEA (IDEA 97) should remain in effect but should be enforced. If S. 1248 is introduced, the Senator should vote NO. Before you hang up, ask the aide to call you or send you an email and let you know how your Senator voted.

Please email spedvoters@optonline.net or parentvolunteer@ourchildrenleftbehind.com and let us know how your conversations went and what responses you received from the Senate aides.

For more information about the May 1 call-in day, visit www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com and/or www.spedvoters.org/ Please forward this call to action to friends and family.

Take 5 minutes to help our kids!
Call your Senators on Monday, May 1, 2004.

2. States Ask to be Relieved of IDEA Compliance Obligations

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) reports that The National Governors Association is lobbying on Capitol Hill, telling members of Congress that IDEA enforcement provisions should be eliminated or watered down.

The Governors' message is that there should be no enforcement until there is full funding. Their policy position states: "if the federal government does not fully fund its 40 percent share of Part B services, states should be relieved from any obligation to meet any new performance measures and implement compliance plans."

Congress passed the special education law (Public Law 94-142) in 1975. After nearly 30 years, the law has never been fully funded. We do not expect this to change in the near future.

However, the failure to fully fund the IDEA should not relieve states and school districts of their responsibility to enforce and comply with the law.

Read the full text of the National Governors Association policy statement at

ACTION NEEDED: Get the message out to members of Congress that enforcement of IDEA is abysmal and that this lack of enforcement HURTS OUR KIDS.

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) will carry this message. He needs to hear from parents. Please help Senator Kennedy by sending him your stories about how the failure to comply with the law HURT YOUR CHILD. We need to let Senators know that it is an outrage to strip parents of the help they need to advocate for their children.

Write a letter to say that if S. 1248 goes to the floor, THERE MUST BE STRONG MONITORING AND ENFORCEMENT OF IDEA BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Each story should start with "WHY ENFORCEMENT OF THE IDEA IS NECESSARY."

Tell your child's story. If you had to use an attorney, describe how your case evolved, how your concerns were resolved and through what means, and why it is important to keep the attorney fees provisions.

Please email or fax your stories to:
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
Email: connie_garner@labor.senate.gov
Fax: 202-224-2417

Please send a copy of your letter to preserveIDEA@dredf.org or fax it to 510-841-8645. You may also want to send copies to the Senators from your state - they are supposed to represent your interests.

To receive "alerts" about IDEA from the Disabilities Rights group, visit http://www.dredf.org and complete the online subscription form. You can read earlier Briefings on their website.

3. IDEA Amendments are a Bad IDEA - Let it Go!

Dee Alpert, publisher of The Special Education Muckraker, wrote an Open Letter to President Bush, Secretary Paige, and Senator Frist -- "The IDEA Amendments are a Bad IDEA - Let it Go!"

"I'm often amazed at the ability of intelligent government folk to maintain positions that are mutually contradictory, while insisting that they want good policy that makes good sense."

"The Administration's position - supporting proposed amendments to the IDEA that would lesson procedural protections for kids with disabilities on the grounds that kids with disabilities are adequately protected by No child Left Behind is a perfect example of political doublethink. Let it go, guys."

Dee makes several assertions, backed up with facts:

* NCLB does not cover many kids with disabilities.

* States are waiving NCLB requirements for special Ed schools.

She concludes: "You can't have it both ways. Start enforcing No Child Left Behind - for all kids like it says, or leave IDEA's protections for disabled kids in place. Drop the bad IDEA."

Read the open letter to President Bush, Secretary Paige, and Senator Frist on Special Ed Muckrakers site.

Who Are Special Ed Muckrakers?

The Special Education Muckraker site includes a statement of their beliefs and mission. This is a shortened version:

"We are people who care passionately about what happens to disabled kids in the public schools. We are researchers and scholars; lawyers; advocates; parents; related service providers; special educators and administrators."

"We believe that all publicly-funded special education programs, placements and services should be required to be effective and efficient and humane. We know that many, at this time, are 'none of the above.'"

"Employment in a public school district is not an excuse: that students or clients have disabilities does not invoke blanket amnesty."

"Public special education programs, placements and services have for too long been the sacred cow of government and media and replete with excuses. We believe that immunity from legislative and public scrutiny, and prosecution, is inappropriate and unwarranted."

Learn about the Special Ed Muckrakers, read Special Reports and Position Papers

4. Learn More About IDEA Reauthorization

To learn why S. 1248 is a bad IDEA, read Parents Urge Senate to Vote "No"  and Advocacy Groups Speak Out, Organize.

Read IDEA Talking Points.

Visit Our Children Left Behind for materials you can use when you contact your Senators.

For news, progress reports, and other important information about the IDEA Reauthorization, please go to the IDEA Reauthorization News Page.

To learn more about the issues, including reports, surveys and recommendations about how the law may be changed, please visit the IDEA Resources page.

The National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, Inc. (NAPAS) published a side-by-side comparison of H.R.1350, S.1248, and IDEA '97. You can download this publication from their homepage or click to download the side-by-side comparison in PDF  (Note: This is a large file so be patient when you download)

5. Wrightslaw Legal & Advocacy Programs: AL, FL, CA

Knowledge is power. When you have information and skills, you will be a more effective advocate for your child. Our role is to help you gain knowledge so you can negotiate with the school on your child's behalf.

Birmingham, AL - May 25, 2004 - FREE to Alabama parents who sign up early!

Orlando, FL - Family Cafe - May 29-30, 2004 (sessions and Keynote speaker)

Sacramento, CA Boot Camp - July 17-18, 2004 - 1st Boot Camp on West Coast!

Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy Training Programs focus on four areas: special education law; using the bell curve to measure progress & regression; SMART IEPs; and tactics & strategies for effective advocacy.

We hope you will join us for a Wrightslaw Training Program! If you are interested in bringing Pete and Pam Wright to your community, please read our FAQs about Seminars. (We are scheduling programs for 2005-2006.)

6. 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.

Law Library Seminars & Training
Advocacy Yellow Pages for Kids
No Child Left Behind Free Newsletter
IDEA Reauthorization Newsletter Archives

Contact Info

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

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