APRIL 7, 2000                                                                 NO. 181


FULL FUNDING OF IDEA - Jeffords-Dodd Amendment

***Good News***

Jeffords-Dodd Amendment

In the March 31, 2000 issue of the NPND "Friday Fax," NPND reported late breaking news that Senator Jeffords was going to offer new support for full funding of IDEA this week. Following is information released in a statement by Senator Jeffords regarding this new support.

Senator James Jeffords (R-VT) released a statement this week regarding a bipartisan amendment being offered that will guarantee America's 16,000 school districts a $2 billion increase in funding, each year for the next five years for special  education.

In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Act authorized funds to assist the States in assuring that each child with a disability receives a free and appropriate public education. At the time the act was passed, Congress pledged to pay 40% of the costs of educating these children. Despite progress over the past several years, the program only supports about 13% of these costs. Congress has repeatedly, with strong bipartisan support, passed resolutions calling for full funding of this program as soon as feasible.

The Jeffords-Dodd (Senators James Jeffords, R-VT and Christopher Dodd, D-CT) amendment to the budget resolution for FY 2001 will allow Congress to make good on this pledge over a five year period. Special education costs are absorbing an increasingly large potion of school districts' budgets. The Jeffords-Dodd amendment, in combination with the 1997 amendments to IDEA, will greatly relieve the pressure on school districts' budgets, allowing local funds to be directed to other important local education needs. In fiscal year 1999, 97 percent of the increase in IDEA dollars went to local school districts.

This amendment is a win-win for everyone. Children with disabilities, who have been denied services or had services delayed, will get the services they need. There will be more money in local school districts to hire personnel and to train or retrain personnel to work with children with disabilities. There will be more money to provide support to general education teachers who have children with disabilities in their classrooms. There will be more money to support other general education reform initiatives chosen by local communities. School boards will no longer feel as though they are pitting the needs of one group of students against another.

The Amendments recognize and support collaboration among general and special education personnel and within school-wide projects, and ease the fiscal accountability associated with such collaboration. Increases in this collaboration will benefit all children -- those with disabilities, those at risk of being found eligible for special education, those eligible for Title I, those eligible for special education and Title I, those who are limited English proficient, those who are migrant, those who are homeless, as well as other children.


Contact your Senators and urge them to support the Jeffords-Dodd Amendment to

www.senate.gov  / Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

***Bad News***

Norwood Discipline Amendment

Representative Charles Norwood (R-GA) has offered an Amendment to the Education Opportunities To Protect and Invest In Our Nation's Students (Education OPTIONS) Act, H.R. 4141. The Amendment concerns the discipline of students with disabilities who carry or possess weapons. Many of you will recall that during the first session of the 106th Congress, Representative Norwood had offered an Amendment to H.R. 1501, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 1999. The Amendment dealt with cessation of educational services for children with disabilities who bring guns/weapons to school. This  legislation thankfully did not pass.

Representative Norwood's Amendment to the Education OPTIONS Act mirrors the sentiments of his previous Amendment. It contains the following language (access the NPND website: www.npnd.org  for the full text).

"Each State receiving funds under this Act shall require each local educational agency to have in effect a policy under which school personnel  of such agency may discipline (including expel or suspend) a child with a disability who carries or possesses a weapon to or at a school, on school premises, or to or at a school function...in the same manner in which such personnel may discipline a child without a disability...Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law, a child expelled or suspended shall not be entitled to continue educational services, including a free appropriate public education, required under Federal law during the term of such expulsion or suspension, if a State...does not require a child without a disability to receive educational services after being expelled or suspended."

Contact Representative Norwood, as well as your own Representative, and oppose the Norwood Amendment. If the Norwood Amendment is passed it will impact IDEA and the education of children with disabilities.

Norwood (P 202-225-4101, F 202-226-5995, ga10@legislators.com )
www.house.gov / Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

 - S. 2274

The bill was introduced by Senators Grassley (R-IA), Kennedy (D-MA), Jeffords (R-VT), and Harkin (D-IA). It would provide:

Access to Health Care Coverage:
Expanding Medicaid Options for States. States will be able to offer Medicaid coverage to children with severe disabilities living in middle income families through a buy-in program. Cost-sharing on a sliding scale up to the full premium cost will be required within certain guidelines that protect lower income families.

Demonstration Program. A time-limited demonstration program will allow states to extend Medicaid coverage to children with potentially severe disabilities who, without access to the health care services available through Medicaid can be reasonably expected to become severe enough to qualify them for SSI.

Option for States to Include Children Receiving Hospital Psychiatric Services in Home and Community-Based Waivers. States would be permitted to include children with disabilities receiving hospital psychiatric services in state home and community-based services waivers.

Access to Health Information and Resources:
Establishing Family to Family Health Information Centers. The bill provides funds for establishing health information centers to assist and support families of children with disabilities and/or special health care needs. 

We must urge our Senators to CO-SPONSOR this legislation. Our Senators need to know how important this act will be to families caring for a child with a disability.

Can you get your Senators to cosponsor this legislation? Do you have good contacts with your Senators and Senator's staff people? Can you work collaboratively with other organizations within your state to gain co sponsorship? Access the NPND website:www.npnd.org for a summary, as well as the full text of S. 2274. Contact Patty Smith, NPND Executive Director, at 202-463-2299; or Linda Shepard, NPND President at 770-577-7771 if you need more information, guidance, and to provide the status of your state's co sponsorship.

Contact your Senators, especially the members of the Senate Finance Committee and encourage strong bipartisan support of S. 2274. We urge organizations to write a letter in support of the Family Opportunity Act (S. 2274) to the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee: Senator Roth and Senator Moynihan asking for a Hearing and a Markup of S. 2274. The members of the Senate Finance Committee, along with contact information, was included in the March 31, 2000 "Friday Fax." Contact the NPND offices at 202-463-2299 if you would like a copy of this issue faxed or e-mailed to you.

www.senate.gov  / Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Reauthorization of the DD Act

The Senate version, S. 1809 of the Reauthorization of the Developmental Disabilities Act of 1999, is currently in the House Commerce Committee. The Chairman of the Commerce Committee, Representative Thomas Bliley, Jr. (R-VA) has not made a commitment to consider the DD Act during this session of Congress. If the DD Act is not passed before the 106th session adjourns, the bill will die, and the entire process will have to be started over again in the next Congress. The reauthorization holds exciting new pieces that will benefit people with disabilities and their families, such as a family support section of the bill. The DD Act funds essential programs such as the Councils on Developmental Disabilities, Protection and Advocacy Networks, University Affiliated Programs and Programs of National Significance.

Our Congressional leaders have already heard anti-DD-program messages, we need to counter with our message of why this important bill is working and needs to continue. We need to contact Chairman Bliley, as well as members of the House Commerce Committee and urge immediate action to adopt the Senate version, S. 1809, of the DD Act.

www.house.gov    / Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Bliley: P-202-225-2815, F-202-225-0011, tom.bliley@mail.house.gov 

Poor Oversight and Improper Payments

On Wednesday, April 5, 2000, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Roth, heard testimony and addressed the issue of Medicaid expenditures for school-based health services and administrative costs. The hearing addressed the difficult and complex system of schools having to bill Medicaid for related services. Because Medicaid is a federal-state partnership, the federal government is responsible for paying a share of costs incurred by the states to serve Medicaid's 41 million low-income beneficiaries, including 13 million school-aged children. Medicaid helps finance certain health services that eligible children, including those with disabilities, receive in schools, such as diagnostic screening and physical therapy. Medicaid is also authorized to reimburse schools' costs for performing certain administrative activities, such as conducting outreach to help enroll children in Medicaid and providing referrals to qualified providers.

NPND's Jackie Golden presented testimony on the importance and need of Medicaid school-based services. She highlighted the story of her son Joshua, who is a young man with Angelman Syndrome, and how related services have enriched and promoted Joshua's development. Ms. Golden states in her testimony "We must assure that the related services paid by Medicaid, through our school systems, are maintained. Schools must assure that the services, in accordance with the child's individual education plan (IEP), are delivered. Without related services, we are taking away the opportunity for children with disabilities to become productive, and successful adults." Ms. Golden urged the Senate Finance Committee to fix the complicated billing system, but in the process, not to harm the children who desperately need related services.

The full text of  Ms.Golden's testimony, the GAO report, (can be found in GAO Reports section under New Testimony - Medicaid in Schools:...) and "Principles for Medicaid School-Based Services for Students with Disabilities " issued by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, is posted to the NPND website: www.npnd.org .


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