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Article of Interest - IDEA Reauthorization

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Bridges4Kids LogoDisability Groups to Converge on D.C. over IDEA
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A number of national groups concerned about the education of children with disabilities and the current efforts to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, will come together on October 28, 2004 in Washington D.C. to lobby Congressional members and ask them to reconsider proposed changes to the Act.

In a bulletin issued October 24th , AWAKE Advocacy described the effort:

“The Day Has Come! We will be going to DC on the 28th of October. We are asking All to Call the Conferees and staff on Oct. 27th and 28th. We will be there to urge the Conferees on IDEA to understand that passage of the proposed legislation will be detrimental to the successful education of children with disabilities. We can meet at the Metro; Union Station @ McDonald's Area, October 28 around 8:00 am. Due to security and anxiety at the Capital, we have been advised that it is best not to have an organized march. Naomi Grossman of Autism Hawaii Org will be coming as well as Dawn Klein, Parent/Advocate from the highly contested state of Ohio. Once there, we will ask that the Conferees cease effort to push part B amendments through, as the extent of changes are too substantial to be undone in the time allotted in the current session of Congress. Parts A and B of IDEA should be left intact without amendment until a thorough review of available research is performed. "We are carrying the message that IDEA amendments need to benefit students. After all, IDEA is needed to ensure students with disabilities are afforded opportunities and protections to enable them to participate and receive a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.”

The coalition of supporting organizations includes: The League of SPED Voters, TASH, NCIL, OCLB, VA TASH, DAC 4 VA, NCTFFCMH, AWAKE_Advocacy as well as others.

The group is endorsing these “Guiding Principles” developed by OCLB – Our Children Left Behind :

1. Promote school-wide and community-wide recognition and awareness of disability issues. For too long, disability issues and people with disabilities were hidden from public view. IDEA amendments must keep disability rights and issues in the public eye rather than hiding them again from public view.

2. Increase opportunities for students with disabilities to receive educational services in fully inclusive settings. Disability is a normal part of the human condition. Students with disabilities may have skilled-based needs that require unique approaches. IDEA amendments must ensure that students who have unique learning needs – especially behavioral needs – have those needs addressed in inclusive settings with supports rather than creating reasons to provide services in segregated settings.

3. Strengthen the principle that needs-based services required by IDEA are provided to equalize educational opportunity for students with disabilities. Too often, special education services are described as add-ons or extras that take away from general education resources. In fact, the opposite is true. Special education provides the opportunity to equalize the educational outcomes for students with disabilities.

4. Preserve or enhance for students and parents the participatory and procedural rights in the IEP development process that exist in IDEA '97. The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education identified improving parent participation as a core objective. IDEA amendments must respect the parents’ desire to be central team participants by increasing rather than reducing opportunities for parent education and parent involvement in core decision-making processes.

5. Preserve or enhance fundamental due process rights for students and parents, as they exist in IDEA '97. The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education, as noted in our introduction, calls for retaining legal and procedural safeguards. Due process remains the spring that keeps the special education system ticking smoothly.

6. Promote IDEA educational opportunities for parents as part of the amendment implementation process. The procedural and subject matter knowledge bases rest in the heads and hands of the educators. Parents must be offered the opportunity to participate along side educators in learning about changes to existing special education law.

7. Foster the development and strengthening of the parent-professional partnership. Partnership embraces both balance of power and respect issues. Any IDEA amendments must seek to create partnership opportunities while respecting and maintaining the rights of the parents and the educators. Partnerships do not develop where the balance of power is tipped too far one way or the other.

8. Preserve or enhance data collection and other accountability measures that provide meaningful indicators of how particular programs and strategies are working for individual students. Accountability remains a core need for IDEA, especially now in the world of No Child Left Behind. Accountability measures, like educational programs, must be individualized to permit evaluation of individual students and their outcomes while at the same time emphasizing development of best practices. Data collection and accountability are also vital in the behavioral domain.

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