Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Special Needs Legislation Hearings - Tuesday, Oct. 16

The Joint Education Committee will conduct a special education hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 1 p.m. in room A1, where testimony will be presented on special education bills that have been filed this session.
Bay State parents are invited to come and testify if you would like to speak in support of any of the bills that have been filed.
For a complete listing of bills call the Joint Education Committee at 617-722-2070 or see link at the bottom of this post.

The state government understands how committed parents of children with disabilities are to their children's education. However, it also realizes how difficult it can be for parents of school-age children to come and testify at Beacon Hill at 1 p.m. and be home in time for your children. If parents are unable to attend the Oct. 16 hearing, you can submit written testimony, and you can call the members of the Education Committee. Phone calls and letters are extremely effective.

S. 286: An Act to Maintain Transition Age Requirements for Students with Disabilities
This bill would maintain the requirement to initiate special education transition planning and transition services at age 14, rather than waiting to age 16 as now permitted under federal law. Transition services arecritical to facilitate a student's movement to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, and community participation. Delay beyond age 14 (waiting until the middle of high school) is too late to facilitate the most effective transition planning for youth with disabilities. (Sen. Augustus is the lead sponsor).

H. 391: An Act to Provide Access to Information for Parents' Evaluators
This bill would amend the state's special education law to ensure that parents and independent evaluators are provided access to observe the student's current or proposed special education programs. Although state regulations currently provide parents the right to observe the school district's proposed program, school districts often place unreasonable obstacles in the way of parents, and their expert consultants' observations. Parents are entitled to full participation in the process of developing an IEP, but, without access to observe their child's school programs, they cannot obtain the information they need to fully and effectively participate with school personnel in the consideration and development of appropriate IEP's for their child. This bill will help to avoid litigation, encourages ettlement, and requires no appropriation. (Rep. Balser is the lead sponsor)

H. 547: An Act Relative to Special Education Due Process Costs
This bill addresses the impact of a Rehnquist decision by the US Supreme Court (Buckhannon, 2001) which has effectively created a two-tier system, barring many low and middle-income families from accessing special educationrights and services. This bill would reinstate parents' rights to recover attorney fees for settlements obtained as a result of litigation, as previously available prior to 2001. This is critical to encourage prompt resolution and settlement of disputes, reduce litigation costs for families and school districts, reduce the lengthy delays which harm children deprived of essential services for months and sometimes years, and help ensure that children of all income levels receive equal educational opportunities. (Rep.Sannicandro is the lead sponsor).

S.278: Act to Improve Teacher Training in Augmentative and Alternative Communication
This bill will help to ensure that teachers receive training in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) methods necessary to educate children with disabilities who are nonverbal or who have limited speech. Thousands of children (including children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, cerebral palsy, and acquired brain injury), rely on AAC methods to interact with others, and many students are now being included in regular education. The bill directs the Board of Education to revise regulations for educator licensure so that all teachers are adequately prepared in methods of communication other than speech to facilitate interaction, to ensure that students with such disabilities can access the general education curriculum and to facilitate inclusion. (Sen. Antonioni is the lead sponsor).

S.311: An Act to Maintain Short Term Objectives for Students with Disabilities
This bill would require school districts to continue the current practice of including and maintaining short term objectives in the IEP's of students with disabilities. A recent change in Federal law removed the requirement for short term objectives, and this bill would ensure that the state practice will continue by codification in State law. The inclusion of short term objectives in IEP's is important to maintain accountability and assist in measuring the student's progress. (Sen. Creem is the lead sponsor).

S.280: An Act Relative to Special Education and Parent Advisory Councils
This bill requires the Department of Education to establish and administer,subject to appropriation, a grant program to provide financial support toparent advisory councils to support their duties. (Sen. Antonioni is the lead sponsor)

A complete list of bills is posted at: gov/legis/legis.htm#hear_mark">http://www.mass.gov/legis/legis.htm#hear_mark>gov/legis/legis.htm#hear_mark

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