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Last Updated: 02/23/2018

 Article of Interest - IDEA Reauthorization

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Parents Rally In Washington on Special Education Issues
by Tricia Luker from, June 18, 2003
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A small but determined number of children and parents assembled at the Dirksen Building in Washington, DC today, braving cold weather, rain and significant logistical problems to speak up for saving special education law in America. The strongest representatives at the rally, which was attended by Senate from various offices including Senator Kennedy, Senator Gregg and Senator Clinton, were the children whose lives and future depend on their continued access to a free appropriate public education.

The rally attendees from approximately 20 different speakers representing families and consumer based advocacy organizations. Each speaker focused attention on a different aspect of special education law, and many of the speakers tied that focus to circumstances and situations they had encountered in their own homes with their own children. Wendy Paddison, ourchildrenleftbehind’s unofficial representative from Michigan, moved man and mountain to be sure that she, her daughter, her friend, Julie and Julie’s daughter could attend the rally. She spoke briefly as the representative of the International Rett Syndrome Association and told those assembled about how special education in its present form has worked so poorly for her daughter, Noelle that she now is forced to home school her because even with IDEA ’97 her public school isn’t a viable or safe option.

Many of the rally attendees also had 20-minute appointments with members of the Senator Kennedy and Senator Gregg’s staff – the people primarily responsible for drafting the Senate Bill. Ms. Paddison, who attended with her friend, Julie and their daughters, and member of CHADD and Joanne from Rhode Island, described the Senate staffers as being cordial and significantly interested in hearing their stories and learning about the meaning of special education to families who have children with disabilities. Ms. Paddison described their daughters’ participation as pivotal to staffers’ understanding of special education law.

Similar meetings are expected to continue with the Senators’ staffers through the remaining eight days of comment before the Senate takes up SB 1248, its Bill reauthorizing IDEA. Individuals and family organizations throughout the United States are trying to mobile individual and family support for maintaining the progressive provisions of IDEA ’97 over those changes proposed by the House and Senate in separate bills. Ms. Paddison described the experiences of attending and speaking and the rally and meeting with Senator staffers as being invigorating and affirming to her and her daughter. She also was favorably impressed at the response received from the Senate staffers as opposed to the cold shoulder she received when she tried to inform her Congressman of her concerns when the bill was being considered by the House of Representatives.

“I don’t know if we will be able to save everything that is good about the current law,” says Paddison “I do know, whatever happens, that me and many parents who formerly were naïve about politics have learned an awful lot in an awful short period of time. My voice and our voices are going to be heard at the polls from now on. We can not let politics as usual steal our children’s future from them or us.”

For more information contact Tricia Luker at 248-542-4128 or visit


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