On March 19th, House Republicans introduced H.R.1350 -- the Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act of 2003 – a federal bill to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA – the special education law). House Republicans drafted the bill to focus on reducing the IDEA paperwork burden for teachers, reducing the number of children wrongly identified for special education, and strengthening the accountability and results for students. NAMI is deeply concerned with many of the provisions in H.R. 1350. The bill threatens to erode critically important protections that currently exist in IDEA and are necessary to ensure that students with mental illnesses receive an appropriate education.
For the many NAMI families and advocates who are familiar with IDEA, many of whom have children receiving special education services, the reauthorization of IDEA is critically important. NAMI families know all too well the challenges and barriers that families with a child with a mental illness face in securing appropriate services and supports in our nation's schools.
NAMI has serious concerns about the adverse impact that many of the provisions in H.R. 1350 will have on students with mental illnesses and their families and opposes the following procedures and provisions:
NAMI is working closely with other mental health and disability groups to oppose special education legislation that threatens to weaken the current IDEA protections. NAMI recently signed onto a letter to Representative Michael Castle (R-DE), Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee's Subcommittee on Education Reform, in opposition to H.R. 1350, along with a coalition of 30 education and health advocacy organizations.
Also, in January 2003, NAMI, along with other children’s advocacy groups participating in the Children's Behavioral Alliance, released a paper titled In the Best Interests of All. This paper illustrates the unmet educational needs of youth with mental illnesses and mental health needs, and the potential benefit of strengthening IDEA implementation for schools, students and families. You can download a copy of In the Best Interests of All online.
NAMI will continue to closely monitor and provide regular updates on HR 1350 and other legislative proposals related to the reauthorization of IDEA.
ACTION REQUESTED: All NAMI members and advocates are strongly encouraged to call their Representatives to urge them to delay the "mark-up" of H.R. 1350 to allow families and advocates adequate time to review the provisions of the bill and to provide input to the committee. Also, you are urged to express concern about the provisions in H.R. 1350 that threaten to weaken the rights of students with mental illnesses to receive an appropriate education under the special education law.
All members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or online.
Mike Castle (R-DE), Chairman
Tom Osborne ((R-NE), Vice Chair
Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Ranking Minority Member
Jim Greenwood (R-PA)
Susan Davis (D-CA)
Fred Upton (R-MI)
Danny Davis (D-IL)
Vern Ehlers (R-MI)
Ed Case (D-HI)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)
Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Ron Kind (D-WI)
Todd Platts (R-PA)
Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Ric Keller (R-FL)
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Joe Wilson (R-SC)
Denise Majette (D-GA)
Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO)
NAMI calls on the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Education Reform to delay mark-up of H.R. 1350 to allow families to review the legislation and communicate their concerns to their congressional representatives. NAMI opposes many of the provisions in H.R. 1350 that threaten to interfere with the fundamental right of students with disabilities – especially those with mental illnesses – to receive a free and appropriate public education.