Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House families and children with disabilities began the trek into the 21st Century with the signing of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Reauthorization of 1997. As we have reported here earlier this was not an easy process. It took three years to bring the Reauthorization to fruition. As children with disabilities, their families, advocates and members of Congress watched, President Clinton signed the Act bringing about the changes to IDEA. In his comments he stated, “To the 5.8 million children whose futures are in the balance, we are saying we believe in you .... To the parents we are saying we are proud of you.... To the American people we are saying we are not going to rest until we disable the ignorance and prejudice that disables us all.”
The job is just beginning. As Assistant Secretary Judy Huemann pointed out, we all need to work together. We have only just begun. Now the Regulations need to be developed, schools, families and communities need to become knowledgeable and all of us need to get behind the process.
David Hoppe was recognized during the celebration for his tremendous leadership. He rose to stand with the others on the podium as President Clinton signed the Act. The group of invited guests stood and cheered. NPND wants to recognize David and all the other members of the IDEA Working Group who made this day possible. You have a place in our hearts and our commitment that we will continue to move forward in establishing a brighter tomorrow for the children of today.
Tom Hehir, Director of the Federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), met with the NPND Board on Wednesday afternoon following the IDEA Reauthorization signing ceremony. He stressed that OSEP would be focusing on four areas during the coming year. These included:
The Regulations implementing IDEA. The Board has the opportunity to provide input into this process. We have been asked to provide input regarding proposed language, areas of the current regulations we feel need to be maintained, and information on Policy Letters that we have used to help families that we feel need to be included in the new regulations. The Legislative sub- committee has received commitments from over 25 individuals and organizations from around the country that have expressed an interest in assisting. You can still participate. We will be scheduling a series of conference calls on targeted areas of the legislation as well as the areas of promising practices, monitoring, and policy letters. The schedule will be posted on the NPND website. You can call in to add your input, or if you would like to participate in drafting and or review contact Heather Hebdon, (e- mail firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 588-1741). The calls will be happening over the next couple of weeks in order to insure that our input is received by the target date established by OSEP of July 1. They hope to have draft language out in the fall or winter for the 90 day comment and final regulations out by April.
Public Input and Dissemination of Information. OSEP is committed to providing information to families and educators in a consistent and uniform manner. They want everyone to receive the same message, and have an opportunity to provide input into the Department. It is important for us to recognize that until the regulations are in place, we will need to fall back on the law itself to provide us with answers to questions. Therefore consistency is vital. Working together and with everyone having the same information, it is expected that the implementation of the regulations and the subsequent monitoring for compliance will be made easier. Plans are in the making for training by OSEP. Dr Hehir also stated that their staff attorneys are available to assist with review of materials to insure they are consistent with the Department’s interpretation. He also stressed the need for PTIs to work closer with the Department as essential partners.
Technical Assistance and Discretionary Programs. OSEP recognizes that these areas are essential in supporting Parts B and C of the Act. They are the backbone for strengthening best practices. During the coming year, these areas will be enhanced and strengthened.
Compliance Monitoring. Under the new law the Federal Government has more flexibility with regards to monitoring practices and compliance assurance. For example, they will now be able to withhold a percentage of the dollars that States receive if they are not in compliance. This will help to insure that effective monitoring and implementation practices are provided.
The activities over the coming year promise to keep OSEP busy. We know that their efforts to keep us informed and involved will benefit families across the Nation.
Tom Hehir, Director of OSEP, announced on Thursday that OSEP is in the process of identifying how it will make training on the new provisions of the IDEA available to Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs), as well as others before the end of the summer. Dr. Hehir, in a meeting with Debra Johnson and Terri Dawson, respectively President and Vice President of NPND, and NPND staff members, indicated that he was well aware of how challenging the passage of a new IDEA at this time of year must be on PTIs and others facing the start of a new school year in a matter of weeks.
Dr. Hehir assured NPND that OSEP will make IDEA training available no later than July or August. He stressed that given the fact that Federal Regulations will not be available until Spring 1998 that interpretations of the act be cleared by the department of Education. OSEP will be working with PTIs and other technical assistance providers to develop materials that can be used in training activities for a variety of audiences. Any questions regarding the interpretation of the Act should be referred to Joletta Reynolds at OSEP: 202-205-5507.
Dr. Hehir indicated that he anticipates being able to release more details of summer training within the next two weeks. We will keep you posted as information becomes available.
On May 15, the House passed H.R. 2, the Housing Opportunity and Responsibility Act of 1997. H.R. 2 gives Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) more flexibility to choose tenants and set rent levels, and makes it easier for PHAs to designate elderly-only housing. One positive provision authorizes $50 million in Section 8 tenant-based rental assistance for people with disabilities who lose access to housing because of elderly-only designation.
Thanks to the ARC’s Government Affairs Office for this report.
Families are receiving notice from the Social Security Administration regarding their children’s SSI eligibility. Reviews are beginning to take place. Be aware that response to timelines is vital. Families have up to 60 days to appeal an adverse decision. However if they want their check to keep coming during the appeal process they must respond within 10 days of their notice. In many states, Medicaid eligibility is dependent on the child receiving SSI, unless the family qualifies financially. Keep yourselves abreast to what is happening.
Demonstrate your commitment to children by visiting www.stand.org today, and sign a Virtual Petition for healthy children along with tens of thousands of caring committed Americans. Connect on-line with Marian Wright Edelman, Rosie O’Donnell, Rosa Parks, and other special guests.
The International Conference on Parents with Disabilities and their
Families, to be held October 23-26 in the San Francisco Bay Area
will be the first national and international conference to focus on
parents with disabilities and their families. For more information,
Through the Looking Glass
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