If you are autistic and live in Delaware, if you are the parent of or caregiver for an autistic person in Delaware, or if you know someone who falls into either category, please read the following items and take action to safeguard valuable services.
To our friends, family and members of the autism community,
Many things are happening related to legislation and funding that could have grave impact on our children and adults. Autism Delaware thinks it is time to advise you about our positions related to these issues, then we are asking you to write, call and meet with your legislators over these issues.
- School funding—H.B. 119 has been introduced which could potentially eliminate the summer program, give districts the ability to waive rules and procedures, and impact non academic programs such as respite. Please see the position paper we sent out earlier today. At the same time, DOE wants to make changes in state funding which would open the code for the DAP [Delaware Autism Program]. Both of these possibilities would eliminate safeguards to educational services offered through the DAP such as changing staff ratios and effecting the summer program.
- Adult services—Potential cuts for the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services will reduce adult service contracts by 10% and could eliminate services to new graduates. This would mean there would be no programming for those who have left school and reduced staff salaries and services levels for those who do receive services. In one case, family members would have to stay home to care for their child and in the other; safety and quality will be reduced.
- Insurance –Children with autism are not covered by insurance. Autism Delaware is proposing requiring insurance to cover ABA and other therapies needed by our children.
The board, staff, and the legislative committee have been working actively with the Lower Delaware Autism Foundation and other disability organizations. Specifically we have done the following:
· Established statewide legislative priorities for the entire autism community and established a weekly presence at the Legislature in conjunction with LDAF
· Testified at Joint Finance Committee about the impact of funding cuts and the proposed elimination of services to students who will be graduating in June 2009
· Met with Secretary Landraf to address our concerns and identify our priorities
· Created a resolution to establish Autism Awareness month
· Supported Cookie Day with presentation of the resolution in the House of Representatives and followed that up with a “Meet & Greet” event for members and legislators
· Participated in Disability Awareness Day with further legislative visits
· Drafted legislation calling for insurance coverage of ABA and other therapies for our children which should be introduced before the end of the session
· Scheduled meetings with State Superintendent Lillian Lowery and Rep. Terry Schooley
During this process, we have met with and spoken to Senators Connor, Simpson, Sorenson and Venables and Representatives Atkins, Barbieri, Booth, Bunting, Cathcart, Gilligan, Hall-Long, Hocker, Hudson, Q. Johnson, Katz, Kowalko, Kovach, Lee, McDowell Schooley, Short, Schwartzkopf, Walls, Williams, and Wilson.
With so many issues hitting at the same time we need your assistance. Please make an appointment with your Senator and Representative; write a letter or make a telephone call about the impact of these potential cuts on your family. If you need assistance finding your representative or writing a letter, please contact us and we will help you and/or provide a template for a letter. We are all working for our entire community, but each of us must work to assure our child’s future. It is up to us.
Rob Gilsdorf, President
Position Paper on H.B. 119
Prepared by Autism Delaware and the Lower Delaware Autism Foundation
We have also used an analysis by Brian Hartman of the Disability Law Program.
House Bill 119 has been introduced to amend Title 14 of the Delaware Public Education Code. The stated intent is to allow more local control to districts over expenditures of state funds so they can save money.
Key Sponsors: Rep. Schooley, Sen. Sokola
Reps. Bennett, Brady, Q. Johnson, Keeley, Longhurst, Manalokos, M. Marshall, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Plant, Scott, Viola, Walls, Sens. Blevins, Bushweller, Cloutier, Hall-Long, Henry, Katz, Peterson, Simpson, Sorenson, Venables
This bill is unacceptable and we need you to call your representative and senator to oppose it immediately. The State Code for DAP has been in place for 30 years, providing the infrastructure and staff ratios for a highly successful and innovative program. The bill will negatively impact the Delaware Autism Program and educational services for students with autism (and other disabilities) in the following ways:
It deletes the extended school year.
Specifically, the bill deletes Title 14, Section 1703, subsections (e)and (f) which call for 12 month programs for children with specific disabilities including autism and allows extension of the school year for children with autism to be 1,425 hours. This is highly objectionable and will result in the loss of extended programming for hundreds of students with extreme disability profiles including our students. It totally takes away our children’s protection for an extended school year.
It allows waivers to any regulation, rule, policy, and some statutes. Any district and any individual school would be authorized to obtain a waiver of any regulation, rule, policy, prescribed course of study, and some statutes based on unclear criteria. Everything is waivable! History instructs that waivers often become the norm. Rather than meet the standard, the norm is to simply obtain a waiver. The exception becomes the rule and legislative intent is undermined. This could impact all our staff ratios including teacher/student, speech, psychologists, etc.
The Legislature’s historical approach to waivers is to limit authorization by both discrete context and time and to monitor waiver effects. For example, the authorization for a waiver of the 1-22 teacher/pupil ratio is specific to this context, must be reapproved annually, and is subject to analysis by the Department of Education (Title 14 Del.C. §1705A-1705B). In contrast, H.B. No. 119 has no limits in context or time and contemplates no review. Thus, schools and districts could be given indefinite or permanent waivers of some State laws and all State regulations. So, what may begin as a temporary change to address a budget crisis can become permanent.
The bill authorizes districts to cap hours of instruction for individual students with disabilities based on a unilateral administrative decision. Such decisions can only be made by an IEP team with parental involvement, not through a unilateral decision by district administration. Moreover, to avoid illegal discrimination (14 DE Admin Code 225; 34 C.F.R. Part 104), the minimum hours for students with disabilities cannot be less than the minimum hours for students without disabilities.
This bill ostensibly gives districts greater local control. Local control will not help our students and we know that districts will not give parents all the information they require to build appropriate educational supports into the IEP. We need to maintain the code that guides the Delaware Autism Program to ensure that our students have staff ratios, appropriate specialists, an extended school year and respite. Parents fought for this code 30 years ago, and parents need to fight today to maintain it.
Rob Gilsdorf John Willey
Autism Delaware Lower Delaware Autism Foundation