Arc, self-advocates wary of legislation

Advocates for special education are keeping a close eye on the 2012 Minnesota Legislature. That is in part because of actions during the 2011 session that threatened their programs.

The Arc Minnesota will make protecting Minnesota’s special education laws and rules a top priority for 2012. That means being vigilant to guard programs and services against cuts or elimination. 

One bill proposed but not passed last year would have eliminated more than 50 Minnesota special education laws and almost 30 Minnesota special education regulations. Sponsored by Sen. John Pederson and Rep. King Banaian, this bill would have jeopardized education services for students with disabilities and restricted parents’ voice on education policy and services. Fortunately, this bill wasn’t approved. 

It didn’t receive a committee hearing. 

Pederson and Banaian argued last session that the bill would reduce paperwork for teachers and school districts, letting teacher spend more time with students. However, there has been no factual data supplied that identifies Minnesota laws/rules as the cause of this “paperwork burden” and how it would increase student instructional time and improve educational outcomes.

Instead of helping, this bill would have caused harm to students and their families, such as: 

• School districts could decide to eliminate committees that give parents a voice in improving early intervention services and education policy. 

• Parents might not be able to have conciliation meetings to help resolve disputes between them and their school district and avoid costly due process hearings. 

• Students might have more difficulty accessing assistive technology to help them succeed in school.

• Children with disabilities could have more difficulty receiving early intervention services. 

More specifics on the bill (SF 1291/HF 1643) are available on the Public Policy page of The Arc Minnesota website (www.arcmn.org). As Access Press went to press, bills were just being submitted and it wasn’t clear how this proposed legislation would emerge in 2012.

Pederson and Banaian will likely request hearings this session on bills similar to SF 1291/HF 1643. Before changing special education law, The Arc of Minnesota wants legislators to hear from parents and students about what is working in special education and should be preserved. 

Parents are already having an influence. At a Dec. 8th forum in St. Cloud, Banaian heard parents’ stories and concerns. The representative said he would ensure that future legislation would not deny parents a voice on policy and services. 

Anyone who would like to have an impact, too, and keep updated on special education legislation this year can contact Kim Kang, The Arc Minnesota Children’s Disability Policy Advocate, at kimk@arcmn.org or 612-387-6509.

SF 1291 www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=S1291.0.html&session=ls87 or http://tinyurl.com/87wo7py

HF 1643 www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=H1642.0.html&session=ls87 or http://tinyurl.com/6tgto5r

Steve Larson is the Public Policy Director for The Arc Minnesota

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