July 25, 1997............................................................................................................................... Number 52
HOUSE AND SENATE CLOSE TO FINALIZING APPROPRIATIONS FOR IDEA
The House and Senate are very near the end of the process of finalizing the appropriations for IDEA. The House Appropriations is recommending an additional $306 million for FY 1998 with $246 million allocated for Part B. The House is now recommending level funding for PTI's at $15.5 million dollars. Infants and Families will receive $25 million and Pre-School Programs will receive $28 million if this recommendation is accepted.
In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee is recommending $834 million in the Part B funding. The Senate Committee is currently proposing an increase of $3 million for PTIs to $18.5 million. Senate funding recommendations for Infants and Families and Pre-School Programs are not available. It's important to support the Senate version to ensuring that the increases will remain in the final bill. Call your Congressman and your Senator. Both the House and the Senate will be meeting on Tuesday to consider the appropriations. Don't let this opportunity get away to register your opinion on the increase in funding for parent training. You can reach your Congressperson or Senator by calling 202.224.3121. Call and follow up with an e-mail or fax.
Save the Medicare MSAs Consumer Protections
House and Senate Conferees have stripped the critical consumer protections for the Medicare Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) from the budget reconciliation package. Last week, the conferees opted for the House structure for MSAs demonstration project. This structure exposes seniors and the disabled to a deductible and out-of-pocket expenses as large as $6,000. In comparison, the Senate version included consumer protections that reduced the deductible to a range of $1,300 to $2,250 (including the deductible). In short, the House version exposes seniors and the disabled to double the amount of out-of-pocket expenses.
At this juncture, our only hope is for the President to intervene. The White House received numerous calls on this issue and agreed to weigh in on behalf of the consumer protections. However, the White House zealousness depends on what they hear from constituents. Therefore, we need to bombard the White House comment line with phone calls urging them to restore the consumer protections for the Medicare MSAs demonstration project.
Tell the President you oppose the introduction of MSAs into the Medicare market since they threaten to expose many Medicare beneficiaries to an unacceptably high level of out-of-pocket expenses. Urge the President to intervene in the negotiation process and advocate on behalf of the Senate Medicare MSAs structure which limits out-of-pocket expenses to $3,000 - which is consistent with the consumer protections of last years Kassebaum Kennedy bill
The issue of the deductible and limit of out-of-pocket is more important than the size because of the financial harm that seniors and the disabled would be exposed to if these critical consumer protections did not exist. Negotiations are still ongoing but are expected to wrap this week.
Therefore, action is needed now. Call the White House comment line at 202.456.111 and make you views known.
Parents who receive notification of termination of benefits from the SSI office should file an appeal within 10 days. For more information, contact Jonathan Stein of Community Legal Services at 215-981-3742.
PRESIDENT CLINTON SUPPORTS TOBACCO TAX INCREASE
President Clinton's public statement this week supporting a 20 cent tobacco tax to partly fund child health insurance drew praise today from a coalition of more than 200 children's, health, and tobacco control groups.
"By reaffirming his support for the tobacco tax increase for children's health expansion at this critical juncture, President Clinton has demonstrated strong leadership on behalf of America's children and working families" said Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman. The President has also expressed support for comprehensive benefits, including the vision, hearing, and mental health services and prescription drugs children need.
LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS INVOLVING DEAF MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS
"I share the public's sense of outrage at the discovery that dozens of deaf Mexican immigrants in New York City were forced to live in the most squalid conditions and work for little or no pay. ...Many of these immigrant workers; were cut off from being able to communicate with the proper authorities. It is our job no w to help make sure that the facts will come out and that this never be repeated."
SECRETARY OF LABOR ALEXIS M. HERMAN
The Istook Amendment Defeated!
The amendment to the appropriations bill that was to be to offered by Rep. Istook (R-OK) that would limit the advocacy voice of local charities that we reported last week - was not offered during the markup of the bill last week.
It appears that pressure from state and community groups related to the impact this would have on their organizations was a major factor in the decision not to offer the amendment. Roughly 40 national and state organizations delivered letters to the committee members to oppose the amendment.
DID YOU KNOW?.... FREE NATIONAL: PARK ACCESS
Golden Access Passport is a free lifetime entrance pass for persons who are blind or permanently disabled. It is available to citizens or permanent residents of the United States, regardless of age, who have been determined to be blind or permanently disabled. You may obtain a Golden Access Passport at any entrance fee area by showing proof of medically determined disability and eligibility for receiving benefits under federal law. The Golden Access Passport admits the pass holder and any accompanying passengers in a private vehicle. Where entry is not by private vehicle, the passport admits the pass holder, spouse, children, and parents. The Golden Access Passport also provides a 50% discount on federal use fees charged for facilities and services such as fees for camping, swimming, parking, boat launching, or cave tours.
Court Backs Removal of Student with Autism from Regular Class
A federal appeals court has ruled that Loudoun County, Virginia school officials have the right to remove a student with autism from a regular classroom, overturning a judge's decision that said the school district had violated the child's right to an equal education.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lawsuit filed by Joseph and Roxanna Hartmann on behalf of their son, Mark. The decision will be reviewed by the full Circuit Court, where if upheld, may lead to a decision to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Hartmanns had sued the school district after Mark was transferred in 1994 from a regular class to a classroom with other autistic children. A U.S. District Judge ruled in the parents' favor last year, but the appeals court said this week that decision did not give enough weight to school officials' testimony that Mark was not making progress when he was in school with non-disabled children and that his outbursts were disrupting the class.
In their lawsuit, the Hartmanns argued that Loudoun County violated federal law that requires schools to educate disabled children in regular classes whenever possible. The Hartmanns said that Mark had done well in a regular first-grade classroom in Illinois, where the family lived before moving to Loudoun. In Loudoun County, Mark was placed in a regular classroom with a full-time aide and a team of specialists to help with his education. Halfway through his third-grade year, school officials decided that Mark-who cannot speak or write with a pencil-had made little progress and that his tantrums made it hard for his classmates to concentrate on their work.
In 1995, Mark and his mother moved to Montgomery County, VA where his parents say he has thrived in a regular public school program. This appeals court ruling may lead other school districts to continue to exclude or scale back programs to include students with disabilities in regular school programs regardless of the evidence that children with disabilities develop important social skills when they go to school with non-disabled students - skills that will benefit them greatly as adults. Many school administrators and teachers argue that putting severely disabled children in regular classrooms can be disruptive and a strain on already-scarce school resources.
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