The Friday Fax

a weekly news bulletin from the National Parent Network on Disabilities
MAY 16, 1997 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Number 43

IDEA Bill Passes

On May 13, the House of Representatives passed HR5, the bill to reauthorize IDEA, by a vote of 420 for and 3 against. After the vote, the bill was forwarded to the Senate, and Senator Gorton attempted to add an amendment that essentially would have allowed each school district to establish “uniform” discipline policies for all students. Many Republicans and Democrats alike, over the last two days, spoke out against his amendment. The Senate voted 51 to 48 to table Senator Gorton’s Amendment. The Senate then took up HR 5 and after four minutes of debate adopted the bill 98 to 1.

There is currently a lot of confusion regarding dates of implementation for the various provisions of the bill. In next week’s Friday Fax we will clarify timelines.

The IDEA Reauthorization bill and Report Language are available from the Document Room of the House or Senate: (202)225-3456, and (202)224-7860, respectively. The bill is also available on Thomas, the Library of Congress Legislative Website:
The Question and Answers document regarding IDEA legislation, created by Madeleine Will and David Egnor is currently available on the Legislative Update page of the NPND website. It will be updated to reflect the bill as passed.

Also available on the website is an IDEA analysis by NPND’s legislation subcommittee.

An Open Letter to NPND Members and Friends

FROM: Debra Johnson, President of the Board of Directors
National Parent Network on Disabilities

DATE: May 16, 1997

RE: Clarification of NPND's Positions and Intentions for Future Activities

Over the past week it has come to my attention that the Internet is abuzz with conversations about the National Parent Network on Disabilities (NPND) and the NPND Executive Director. The comments contained in these conversations seem to be based on gross misunderstandings surrounding how the Board and members of NPND arrived at our position regarding the Reauthorization of IDEA. As the President of the NPND Board of Directors, I am writing this open letter to give everyone access to facts rather than speculation.

I would like to first respond to a prevailing myth that the positions taken by NPND were positions formulated by "Washington Insiders" and that these positions had been established "Inside the Beltway." Please let me set the record straight. We are all aware that in the past few months tension has been rising within the parent advocacy community regarding which positions truly represent those of families of children and youth with disabilities in this nation. I cannot and will not attempt to explain the positions of others surrounding their support or lack of support of S.717 or H.R.5. I would however, like to reiterate that on May 5, 1997 the Board of Directors of the National Parent Network on Disabilities voted to support the passage of the bill developed by the IDEA Working Group. I want you to be assured that these decisions were well thought out by many parent leaders across this nation. The decision to support this legislation was based both on the comparison of this Bill with the alternative bills we had seen last year, and our own analysis of the capacity of the parent movement to successfully retain IDEA without amendments. Even though there were areas where we had serious concerns, we felt this was the best Bill we could get. The following describes the process that the NPND Board of Directors utilized to arrive at its decisions:

  • The NPND Legislative Sub-Committee developed a detailed matrix of the IDEA Work Group draft by taking input from over 15 parent and PTI leaders (of whom 3 were Board members) from 15 states. The Sub-Committee formally passed on its recommendations to the NPND Policy Committee. The NPND Policy Committee, comprised of 3 NPND Board Members from 3 States, and 2 non-board members reviewed, modified and formally sent the work to the Executive Committee to adopt. Due to the critical time limitations, the NPND Executive Committee, comprised of parent leaders from 4 states, adopted the Legislative Sub- Committee's analysis on behalf of the Board of Directors. In essence, over 30 parent leaders representing over 20 states provided input into this single decision.

  • On May 5, 1997 the NPND Board voted to support the IDEA Work Group Bill. As the President of the Board of Directors, I sent a letter to Patty McGill Smith, our Executive Director, clarifying the NPND position on this bill. I directed her to forward a letter from me as the Board President to members of Congress stating that NPND supported this bill and that we still had serious concerns regarding the discipline issues and specific issues surrounding the use of hearing officers rather than the court system to determine placement for students in certain situations.
  • I share this level of detail with you to clarify just how many parent leaders took an active role in developing and establishing the position taken by NPND regarding the support of this legislation.

    I strongly believe that everyone has the right to his or her opinions and the right to disagree with others. I do take offense, however, when people, unaware of the degree of interaction and refinement that each of these decisions has undergone, attacks NPND as an organization or makes personal attacks on our NPND Executive Director or NPND Board Members for representing the wishes of this board. When attacks are made, they must be directed at all of the NPND members and NPND Board members who have made those decisions, not just the persons responsible for carrying out the Board's actions. We all need to recognize that disagreements can be just differences of opinions and don't have to be motivated by any other agenda.

    The second thing that I want to accomplish is to convey a sincere concern of the NPND Board of Directors and Staff that the parent advocacy community must embark upon a much needed healing process. Parents of children and youth with disabilities and parent leaders must now put aside our differences and unite behind our common purposes:

    That children and youth with disabilities in this country must receive an education that enables them to be full and equal partners in our society and valued citizens.

    It is also critical that we also recognize and acknowledge the many wonderful outcomes that we achieved together as the result of our strong parental voices. We must give thanks and congratulations to everyone for the work done by all. Every person’s voice made a difference! We need to acknowledge that without our combined voices this reauthorization would have looked much different; our sons and daughters would not have access to the educational options that they will have.

    Parents across this nation must pick up their phones, pens, and faxes to congratulate and thank communication networks such as the AD Hoc Committee to Save IDEA, NPND, LDA ARC, UCP, DREDF, The Center on Law and Education, TASH, individual attorneys and advocates, and others who spent hours encouraging parents from all parts of America to make their voices heard. These voices made the difference and without this strong level of commitment and dedication all our children's futures would be dramatically different. The fact that the IDEA Work Group started with current law rather than with the bills from last year was a direct result of the strong parental input from every state, As parents we need to jointly celebrate this victory!

    We are all aware that for parents of children with disabilities the reauthorization of the IDEA has been an incredibly long drawn out ordeal. For parents the journey has been like being trapped on a terrifying roller coaster ride. Over the past three years emotions have been driven to the boiling point for many parents and advocates; at times things have been said in anger that were not truly meant. However, it is time now to put our past disagreements behind us and to focus on the real work at hand—working to strengthen the rules and regulations that will be coming from Washington in the near future.

    We also know that the bills that recently passed through Congress contained compromise language—some good and some not so great. Our work is just beginning. The NPND Sub- Committee is in the process of gathering names of persons interested in participating on committees to develop input for the rules and regulation process. Please, please contact Pam Steneberg, the Chairperson of the Policy Committee at 510-525-9125 to share your commitment to work on this project. We must unite in a strong effort to work collaboratively to make our parental voice continue to echo in Washington.

    CHILD Health Campaign

    On Tuesday, May 13, 1997, over 150 organizations representing tens of millions of Americans came together to publicly announce their support for S. 525 and S. 526, the bi-partisan Hatch- Kennedy CHILD (Child Health and Lower Deficit) Act. The Campaign for CHILD Health Now is a unique coalition of tobacco control organizations, child advocates, health groups, and others representing local, state, and national memberships, united to pass the CHILD Act to make health coverage available for the working families of 10 million uninsured children.

    For more information on the Campaign, or how you can support the CHILD Act, please call Corina Cortez at the Children’s Defense Fund, (202)662-3559, or Susan Polan at the American Cancer Society, (202)546-4011

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