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COPAA Praises Senate introduction of The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act

Wednesday, September 10, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall


COPAA Praises Senate introduction of The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act

Restores a prevailing parent’s right to recoup expert witness fees which are needed in every child’s case


Washington, DC – Today in response to Chairman Tom Harkin’s introduction of The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, Denise Marshall, COPAA executive director made the following statement:


“We appreciate Chairman Harkin’s tireless work and commitment to helping restore the right of prevailing parents to recover their expert witness costs in due process and litigation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The bill protects parents’ ability to be meaningful partners in their child’s education and exercise due process rights when their child is not being provided a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) as required under the law. For the 6 million students with disabilities, the right under IDEA to a hearing before an impartial hearing officer must be affordable to be meaningful.   Only a small percentage of families – just .27% according to the U.S. Department of Education – exercise this right.”

Bill Background:  In 1986, Congress adopted legislation that was intended to allow prevailing parents to recover their expert witness fees. But in 2006, the Supreme Court ignored Congress' intent and held that parents cannot recover these costs in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy. The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act will override the Supreme Court's decision and restore IDEA’s original intent that allowed prevailing parents to recover expert fees just like prevailing plaintiffs in the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, and other civil rights laws.


Marshall concluded, “Few parents can afford the thousands of dollars needed to pay qualified medical, educational, and technical experts needed in IDEA due process. Almost 2/3 of children with disabilities live in families earning under $50,000 a year. A family should not have to be affluent to vindicate their child’s civil rights. By contrast, school districts can pay their experts with taxpayer dollars or use staff already on their payroll. In fact, when COPAA polled its membership, they’ve expressed that ‘experts are critical 100% of the time in due process cases’, and they say they need the experts ‘early and often’ in every case. With their greater resources and paid staff, school districts have a distinct advantage over parents. This bill will restore balance to this important process and only compensate families who win.  Families that do not prevail are not reimbursed.  We thank the Chairman for sending a clear message about the importance of a fair process to the six million students with disabilities attending our nation’s public schools.”



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