Tuesday, February 28, 2006

NDSS Alert!!!!

NDSC AND NDSS URGE YOU TO PROTECT EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS UNDER IDEA
Multi-Year IEP and Paperwork Waiver Demonstration Programs Pose a Danger

Your help is urgently needed. The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) have submitted joint comments and recommendations for the Multi-Year IEP and Paperwork Waiver demonstration programs and we need your support. Please send an email urging the U.S. Department of Education not to erode IDEA civil rights and the IEP. Visit http://capwiz.com/ndss/issues/alert/?alertid=8519506 and type your zip code in the box at the top of the page to send a prepared email or your own comments to the Department and Congress. The deadline to submit these comments is March 6, 2006.

Background
IDEA 2004 permits two demonstration programs, also known as “pilots.” The Multi-Year IEP pilot allows up to 15 states to seek approval for proposals to offer parents the option of a multi-year IEP. IDEA states that this pilot was developed to offer the opportunity for long-term planning.

The Paperwork Waiver Pilot allows up to 15 states to seek waivers of certain IDEA statutory and regulatory requirements for a period not to exceed 4 years. IDEA states that the purpose of this pilot is to reduce excessive paperwork and non-instructional time burdens that do not assist in improving educational and functional results for students with disabilities. The statute also mandates that procedural safeguards, civil rights requirements, and the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) may not be waived or affected.

The Department appears to have exceeded its authority by expanding the scope of these pilots beyond the above statutory requirements.

NDSC and NDSS Concerns
On December 19th, the U.S. Department of Education published notices of proposed requirements and selection criteria for both of these pilots. These are the rules States must follow in implementing the pilots and the criteria that will be used by the Department to decide which States will be permitted to participate in each pilot. The public has until March 6th to comment on the proposed requirements and criteria. At some point after that date the Department will publish the final versions. The problem with the proposed requirements and selection criteria for both pilots is that they expand the statutory scope of the pilots and do not adequately protect the educational rights that IDEA was enacted to uphold.

The proposed requirements for the pilots threaten FAPE and could change the IEP and the IEP process forever. These pilots are of immediate concern for children with disabilities in up to 30 States. 15 States will be awarded the Multi-Year IEP Pilot and 15 States will be awarded the Paperwork Waiver Pilot. However, it is possible that some of the same States will apply for and be awarded both pilots. A long-term concern is that the pilots may become the basis for changes to IDEA that would affect all States. For example, during the next reauthorization of IDEA, the multi-year IEP might become a requirement, not just an option for parents to choose, and the civil rights protections could be permanently eroded.

The proposed requirements for BOTH pilots would allow up to 30 States to create IEPs that differ in their content, development, review and revision from the annual IEPs you have been using. NDSS believes that this is a violation of FAPE, which requires a free appropriate education with special education and related services that are provided in conformity with the IEP requirements under IDEA. The proposed pilot requirements appear to go beyond what Congress intended when these pilots were added to IDEA. The report from the House of Representatives on IDEA 2004 clearly states that the usual IDEA rules for IEP development are intended to apply to multi-year IEPs. If Congress did not intend to waive the usual IEP rules for multi-year IEPs why would it be acceptable to change these statutory requirements for any other purpose?

Another problem with the proposed requirements for both pilots is the vague language regarding the opportunity that parents will have to provide input into the their State’s pilot proposal and into the implementation and evaluation of the pilots. Parental input is critically important to ensure that long-term planning and paperwork reduction are not achieved at the expense of student outcomes and the informed involvement of parents in their child’s education.

For example, in the Paperwork Waiver Pilot, who decides which tasks constitute a “non-instructional time burden that does not assist in improving educational and functional results for students with disabilities”? This phrase needs to be defined with parental input. It is important to remember that the short-term objective requirement for certain students with disabilities was eliminated in IDEA 2004 in the name of paperwork reduction. This decision raises concerns about where paperwork reduction might lead, in spite of the fact that procedural safeguards, civil rights requirements, and the right to FAPE are supposed to be kept in place.

The proposed requirements for the Paperwork Waiver Pilot raise all the same issues as the Multi-Year IEP Pilot, plus some additional reasons for concern. IEP requirements AND other statutory, regulatory and State requirements are permitted to be waived according to the proposed requirements for the Paperwork Waiver Pilot. The standards for selecting these waivers are dangerously vague. Parental consent, which is required for a multi-year IEP, is not required for these other waivers. In addition to these critical flaws in the proposed requirements for the pilots, there is also a significant problem with the limited scrutiny provided by the proposed selection criteria that will be used by the Department to decide which States will be permitted to participate in each pilot. The proposed criteria must be amended to include more details and additional criteria must be included to address the many important considerations and protections that have been omitted.

Action Steps
NDCS and NDSS needs parents, friends, other family members of children with Down syndrome and organizations to send emails to the U.S. Department of Education and Congress in order to demonstrate that there is extensive grassroots support for our recommendations to improve the proposed requirements and selection criteria for the Multi-Year IEP and Paperwork Waiver pilots. We have prepared an email that will take just a few minutes to send to these recipients. If you have the time, it is very powerful to personalize the email with a story about your child and the importance of the annual IEP and the current IEP process to your child’s educational outcomes. Visit http://capwiz.com/ndss/issues/alert/?alertid=8519506 and type your zip code in the box at the top of the page to send this email or your own comments to the Department and Congress. The deadline to submit your comments is March 6, 2006.

Resources

* The full text of the proposed requirements and selection criteria can be found at: http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/E5-7506.htm for the Multi-Year IEP Pilot
http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/E5-7507.htm for the Paperwork Waiver Pilot
* The full text of the NDSS/NDSC comments on the pilots can be found at:
Paperwork Reduction: http://capwiz.com/ndss/issues/alert/?alertid=8519366
Multi-Year IEP: http://capwiz.com/ndss/issues/alert/?alertid=8519391

If you have questions or comments about this alert, contact Ricki Sabia at rsabia@ndss.org.
If you or others you know would like to be added to the NDSS mailing list, send name(s) and email address to info@ndss.org

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