September 19, 1997 ................................................................Number 60
The United States Senate voted to support the Gorton Amendment to the Senate version of the appropriations bill that seeks to provide Department of Education monies directly to local school districts in the form of block grants. This means that all funds appropriated under this act with certain restrictions, would go directly to school districts based on an annual census count. This amendment, if included in the final act, would virtually eliminate the ability of the federal government to provide such programs such as: Goals 2000; transition from school to work; gifted and talented programs; arts education; technology partnerships; safe and drug free schools; English as a second language; and Title I programs for low-income students who are learning to read.
President Clinton has issued a statement calling the Gorton Amendment unacceptable, and promised to use his veto power if necessary to make sure this provision does not become the law of the land. The Senate, just hours earlier, gave their support to the President's request for voluntary nationwide testing - and then eliminated the very funding needed for its implementation. It appears that the Gorton Amendment caught advocates virtually off guard.
Senator Arlen Specter, the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, says that this amendment reflects a lot of sentiment about "federal intrusion in education". While many people assume the proposals will not survive the Senate-House conference process, it will go to a House-Senate conference committee for a final decision.
While it appears that the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act would be one of the provision that would be exempt from the block grant, this amendment represents another attempt by foes of federal involvement in education to attack existing legislation through an attempt to attack efforts to provide needed services to children with special needs.
The Executive Director of NPND, Patty McGill Smith, said in a statement today that the disability community is "devising plans to influence the conference committee on both the Gorton and Riggs Amendment, and will be notifying members of the National Parent Network when it is time for action."
On the 10th of September in The Cabinet Room, President Bill Clinton met with 12 members from the disability community led by Justin Dart, Jr. from Justice for All - including NPND Board member Nancy Diehl . They were joined by Vice-President Gore; Assistant Secretary of Education Judy Heumann; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging, Disability and Long-Term Care Policy Bob Williams, Associate Commissioner for ADD Susan Daniels, Bill White from the OPL Disability Outreach for the White House; Maria Echaveste, Director of OPL; Chris Jennings, Deputy Assistant to the President; Bruce Vladek, Director HCFA; and Diana Fortuna from the Domestic Policy Council.
Nancy Diehl, said "it was exciting to have the opportunity to meet with the President and discuss IDEA. He listened and we emphasized that discipline problems in schools should not be put on the back of children with disabilities. It is everyone's issue. IDEA can be a good model for reform and positive behavior. The President said he learned a lot and now recognizes more fully how all the issues are tied together."
Senator Arlen Specter placed an amendment into the Senate appropriations bill that would fund new demonstration projects on Medicaid attendant care services.
The Riggs Amendment reported in last weeks Friday Fax was approved by a voice vote in the House.
The amendment to restore funds for the Community-Based Family Resource and Support Program was approved by voice vote in the House Respite care amendment.
In another surprising move, it is reported that the new appropriations for the District of Columbia contains a provision to limit the lawyer's fee to $75 for IDEA due process activities. This would be the first time that attempts have been made to limit the lawyer's fees in federal legislation.
Who were those masked men?
The Combined Federal Campaign is under way. Please support the organization of your choice. Your support will be put to good use. If you would like to consider the National Parent Network on Disabilities, the number is 1532.