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ACTION ALERT - Attack on IDEA may end up in COVID-19 stimulus bill

posted Mar 19, 2020, 11:08 AM by Diane Willcutts   [ updated Mar 19, 2020, 12:24 PM ]
Reportedly, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is seeking to waive the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) for a year or longer.  This essentially means that districts would not be responsible for educating students with disabilities during that time.  Please contact your senators and representatives!  

Contact information for members of Congress is here.

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) has issued an action alert with sample language and contact information, here.

The letter I sent to my representatives is below.  Feel free to steal whatever you would like!  


Diane Willcutts

(home address)

West Hartford, CT  06119

(860) 992-5874


March 19, 2020


Senator Chris Murphy

U.S. Senate

(202) 224-9750 (fax)


Re:  COVID-19 Bill - Attack on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)


Dear Senator Murphy:


I am an advocate for Connecticut children with disabilities.  I am very concerned to hear that there are efforts from Senator Lamar Alexander to waive provisions of IDEA for a period of time, perhaps a year or longer.  The idea that the U.S. would possibly sanction losing a year of education for our most vulnerable children is frightening, and I hope you will help.  


While the COVID-19 outbreak has placed a tremendous and unprecedented strain on schools and districts, it is imperative that we work together to find solutions that allow children to receive equitable access to an education and the services that support them without undoing all of their civil and educational rights.  I urge you to reject any provision that would provide waiver authority to the Secretary of Education regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 


Over 7 million children rely on IDEA to receive special education supports and services.  And in fact, some districts, even this early on, are being very creative and are finding ways to meet children's needs, including providing tele-therapies and convening virtual IEP meetings to plan for their programs.  


To make sure all students have access to the internet, some districts are setting up locations to provide devices to all children to take home, and we are working to find ways for all families to have internet access.  THAT should be our focus.  If anything, this crisis is giving us the opportunity to find more equitable ways to provide education.  The answer isn't "let's not have any expectations for our schools to educate children."  The answer is "let's creatively trouble-shoot how we can meet our students' needs.”  And that includes all of our students.  


Right now, many of us are at home and are healthy.  We're not first responders.  We don't work in grocery stores.  Why wouldn't we take some time off from worrying to try to creatively trouble-shoot what we can do for all kids?  Without sanctioning widespread discrimination against children with disabilities.  


I hope you will help schools by providing states with additional funding that can be used to provide teachers and school leaders and families with the tools they need to connect to teach and support students. Schools can also be supported with funding to provide extended school year to students and other compensatory services.


Please support the students with disabilities and their families that rely upon the IDEA to have equitable access to an education.



Diane Willcutts