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 Article of Interest - IDEA

Take Your Faces to Their Places: The Press Packet
Congress is Leaving Children Behind

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2003, For more information, contact: Calvin and Tricia Luker (248) 544-7223
For more articles like this visit http://www.bridges4kids.org.

 
Today, May 22nd, we think there is a good chance that the Senate bill reauthorizing IDEA will be released and introduced. We do not know how quickly the Senate will move to pass the bill. This is our best chance to reinstate the program and due process protections stripped from IDEA in the House version. www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com has updated its “Press Info” section of the web site to explain how we can publicize the IDEA reauthorization process to improve the final bill for our children. Please visit that section before you leave us today.
 
It is now time to “take your faces to their places.” Next week is Memorial Day week, and many of our legislators will be spending time in their home districts. The timing is perfect for you to make contact both with your Senators and with your local TV, newspaper and radio outlets. We have written a press release below for you to use to make the media aware of your effort to save IDEA for our children. All you have to do to use the press release is to insert your name [or your organization’s name] in the appropriate place and add your contact information. You may modify the press release to meet your unique community or organizational needs. You also may delete the reference to www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com if you wish.
 
We really are getting into crunch time. Now is when our Senators need to hear our stories, meet our students and children, and see the faces of the 6.6 million children whose future rests in the Senate’s hands. Please take a few minutes to get the word out, and to “take your faces to their places.” The press release appears immediately below. Good luck.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Congress is Leaving Children Behind

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2003

For more information, contact: Calvin and Tricia Luker (248) 544-7223

 
CHICAGO, Illinois – 6.6 million students with disabilities and their families stand to lose their right to a free, appropriate public education. H.R. 1350, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 30, 2003, threatens to dismantle the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If a similar bill passes the Senate millions of students with disabilities will most certainly be left behind.

“The House passage of H.R. 1350 turns back the civil rights clock 30 years. It took that long for parents to finally have our students attend neighborhood schools. Now all of that is at risk with the passage of this bill,” says Sandy Alperstein of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, whose son has apraxia, a neurological motor planning disorder.

Alperstein is not alone in her concerns. Most of the student and parent advocacy agencies across the country agree with her. Wendy Byrnes of DREDF (a national law and policy center dedicated to furthering the civil rights of people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities) warns that “the 108th Congress could have their place in history secured as the permanent dismantlers of appropriate public education for millions of disabled children in the United States if H.R. 1350 is not amended by the Senate before becoming the reauthorized and very dangerous IDEA it appears to be in its current incarnation.”

Groups representing educators and other school-based professionals opposed H.R. 1350 along with student/parent advocacy groups. The National Education Association, representing 2.7 million members, as well as the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and at least 66 other organizations opposed passage of H.R. 1350. However, “the House ignored this widespread opposition to H.R. 1350 in favor of the lone voices of school administrators,” says Alperstein.

Paul Marchand, Staff Director for The Arc and UCP Public Policy Collaboration, a former special education teacher, early childhood director, and co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Education Task Force, who has been involved on the federal level with IDEA since the early 1970’s, agrees: “This legislation is the worst national public policy since before the Congress enacted the right to education for students with disabilities almost 30 years ago. The bill seeks to appease school administrators at the expense of students with disabilities and their parents. The House bill twists the law from one for kids to one for school superintendents and principals.”

Ann Slaw of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, a former school board member and the mother of a child with disabilities also believes the bill fails dismally in its stated dual purposes of reducing paperwork and increasing educational results: “As a parent of a child with disabilities and a former school board member, I must say that this bill does very little to help our teachers and very much to hurt our students with disabilities.”

“H.R. 1350 is scary,” says Susan Bauer, a Buffalo Grove mother and the recipient of her school district’s Champion for Children Award. She is particularly concerned with proposed changes to the IEP (the blueprint for providing a student with special education). “This bill takes away parents’ and teachers’ abilities to closely and appropriately monitor a child’s progress at school. Optional 3- year IEP’s are a joke. Many parents don’t know or will not know that they can have an IEP every year. Removing benchmarks is a catastrophe. The reality is these kids will fall farther and farther behind.”

“And without the procedural protections currently contained in IDEA, which H.R. 1350 systematically eliminates, parents will have no recourse,” says Alperstein.

Calvin and Patricia Luker, Michigan parents and advocates for children with disabilities, feel the problems with H.R. 1350 stem from parents being excluded from the drafting process. “For 28 years Congress has been using a past experience and seeking input from both parents and educators to improve IDEA for students and schools. IDEA worked better for everyone,” they noted. “That practice was abandoned this time around. Students and parents have been stifled. The result is that students and educators will suffer in the future if H.R. 1350 survives the Senate. Learning to listen is a skill we’re all taught at a young age. There’s still time for Congress to listen to families, and to correct the problems in H.R. 1350.”

Dr. Bernie Travnikar, a retired school principal and special education director from Pontiac, Michigan, agrees that parents and students have not been represented fairly with the passage of H.R. 1350. “The legislation is missing some of the most critical components that help educators better understand why students with disabilities act the way that they sometimes do. If the Senate’s version of the bill looks anything like H.R. 1350, we can be sure to see an increase in students with disabilities being expelled, suspended, and segregated from their present schools for something as simple as making funny noises in class, which is neither a dangerous nor a destructive behavior.” Travnikar believes that the elimination of the Manifestation Determination and the lack of strong language for Positive Behavior Supports will result in countless students behind left behind. “These are research based procedures to make schools a better place for kids. Why would they eliminate such important components for educational success as they reauthorize the IDEA? For the life of me, I cannot understand what the House was thinking. No wonder parents are trembling with anxiety and anticipation. I would be too.”

Alperstein laments that “without an appropriate education, many of these children will find themselves on the streets, or worse yet, in prison.”

The Senate soon will introduce its own version of the bill reauthorizing IDEA. “I hope the Senate will do a better job than the House by really listening to parents and looking out for students. Either the House members that voted in favor of H.R. 1350 didn’t think that students with disabilities are ‘children’, or they didn’t understand that kids with disabilities need IDEA written as a “ramp” to optimally benefit from No Child Left Behind [NCLB],” explains Alperstein. She concludes, “If No Child Left Behind was intended to help all students achieve, and parents are now to be treated as customers, someone needs to shake my hand at some point. Let’s see if the Senate knows how to do it.”

For more information, please visit http://www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com.

  

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