The Law Office of PATRICIA S. PHELAN

SPECIAL EDUCATION LAW

Help Parents of Children with Disabilities Get Reimbursed for Expert Witness Fees!

Here is your chance to make a difference for the families of children with special needs.

Call your Congressional Representative on Tuesday, May 6!
Ask Congress to Support the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, H.R. 4188!
Help Parents Recover Expert Witness Fees and Level the Playing Field!  
202-224-3121

PLEASE CALL YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES ON TUESDAY, MAY 6, AND ASK THEM TO CO-SPONSOR THE IDEA FAIRNESS RESTORATION ACT, H.R. 4188.  This bill will allow parents who prevail in due process or litigation under IDEA recover their expert witness fees. 

Few parents can afford the thousands of dollars needed to pay for expert testimony that is often necessary to prevail in IDEA cases.  But school districts can use tax dollars to employ and pay for psychologists and other paid experts.  Parents have fewer resources and yet must bear a greater financial burden.  H.R. 4188 is necessary to restore Congress’ original intent and allow parents to recover their expert witness fees.  Introduced by Congressman Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Pete Sessions (Texas), it will help level the playing field for the parents of millions of children with disabilities.

Over 100 disability organizations, including the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities, Arc, Easter Seals, the Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates, Inc., National Disability Rights Network, National Down Syndrome Society, National Down Syndrome Congress, Learning Disabilities Association, National Center for Learning Disabilities, CHADD, and others support H.R. 4188.  But we need your help to get it passed.

Call Congress on Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Ask them to Cosponsor H.R. 4188

On Tuesday, May 6, 2008, please call your Congressional Representatives (202-224-3121) and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  Have friends and family members call.  It will only take 2-3 minutes.

If you do not know who your Congressional Representative is, go to http://www.house.gov and put your zip code into the box in the upper left corner.   (You usually only need your five digit zip code.)  You can also use http://www.congress.org to look up Representatives and phone numbers.  PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES INSTEAD OF USING EMAIL.  Congress needs to hear our voices and hear from as many parents and child advocates as possible!

It helps if you ask for the Education Aide, but you can also talk to the person who answers the phone.  You can leave a voicemail message.  Tell them you are a constituent and would like the Congressperson to co-sponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. 

Please make a phone call on May 6, even if you’ve made one before.  If you can’t call on May 6, it’s okay to call afterwards. 

Why It’s Important to Cosponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (H.R. 4188).

The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act would override the Supreme Court’s decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy (2006) and allow parents who prevail in due process or litigation to be reimbursed for their expert witness fees. When prevailing parents cannot recover expert costs, the playing field is neither level nor fair, and children are denied a free appropriate public education and other fundamental IDEA rights.

  • Hiring qualified medical, technical, and other expert witnesses can cost many thousands of dollars.  Few parents can afford this high cost, putting due process out of reach for most parents, who struggle to afford what their children with disabilities need.
  • School districts use tax dollars to pay for psychologists and other paid experts.  Parents have fewer resources and yet must bear a greater financial burden. Approximately 36% of children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year; over 2/3 earn less than $50,000 a year.
  • Congress intended for parents to recover their expert witness fees in the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986.  Allowing parents to recoup their expert fees simply restores Congress’ original intent.
  • If due process is not affordable, the IEP process becomes even more one-sided and unfair.  School personnel control the IEP process and often vastly outnumber parents.  When the right to due process is meaningful, it helps ensure that school districts provide appropriate educations to children with disabilities.
  • Most parents turn to due process and litigation only as a last resort.  In 2003, the GAO reported that there were only 5 hearings per 10,000 special education students.  But when parents are forced into due process, they should be able to afford expert witnesses.

Want more detailed information? 

Download COPAA’s complete brochure on the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act and enabling parents to recover expert fees, http://www.copaa.org/pdf/MurphyBrochure.pdf
There is also a Spanish language version, http://www.copaa.org/pdf/MSSpanish.pdf
(Lea aqui en Espanol: Murphy y los derechos de los padres para recuperar el costo de los expertos: http://www.copaa.org/pdf/MSSpanish.pdf )
You can read H.R. 4188 here: http://www.copaa.org/news/IRFAct.html
You can read letters from over 100 disability organizations supporting H.R. 4188 here:
 http://www.copaa.org/news/organizations.html

For more information about H.R. 4188 and this alert, please contact Bob Berlow and Jess Butler of COPAA at protectidea@copaa.org  Together, we can make the difference and restore a balanced playing field for children with disabilities.

Let Congress hear your voice on May 6!  Ask your Representative to cosponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  Call Congress, 202-224-3121.

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April 25, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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