The politics of disability policy in the contemporary Congress confirms the observation by James Curry and Frances Lee that lawmaking largely remains a process of bipartisan accommodation. Most major disability legislation since the 1970s has passed with bipartisan sponsorship and support. One reason is that the issue affects so many Americans, including members of Congress. There have been some exceptions to this bipartisan pattern, particularly when disability policy intersects with more contentious issues. And bipartisanship does not guarantee outcomes that are satisfactory to people with disabilities.
The latest example of largely-unheraled bipartisan work.
U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19) today announced the Think DIFFERENTLY About Education Act was voted out of the House Committee on Education & Workforce and will advance to the House Floor. Rep. Molinaro introduced this bipartisan bill alongside U.S. Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY-04), and Mike Lawler (R-NY-17). This bill builds on Rep. Molinaro’s ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ initiative to provide resources to individuals with disabilities and their families.
In an annual IEP meeting, school staff and parents of a child with a disability meet to develop an educational plan for the student. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, parents have the right to bring a third-party advocate, such as a therapist, lawyer, or knowledgeable family member, to these meetings. However, most parents are not aware of this right. The Think DIFFERENTLY About Education Act requires K-12 schools to inform parents of their right to bring an advocate to individualized education program (IEP) meetings.
Denise Marshall, CEO of The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates said, "The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) thanks Representative Molinaro for his leadership on behalf of students with disabilities through introduction and mark-up of The Think Differently About Education Act. This bill would require districts to inform parents of their existing right to bring any individual into a child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting where key decisions are made that impact the child's education. We look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Molinaro in promoting and protecting the rights of children with disabilities."