Thursday, June 12, 2003

Parents Need Pollsters

It’s too bad we parents don’t have pollsters.

The only number we’ve been able to hear with any consistency is HR 1350. We fear that many of those who voted for it in the House of Representatives really thought they were doing the right thing for us and for our kids despite the ground swell of opposition we tried to muster against its passage. It is hard to believe that it only took 42 days to jam HR 1350 through the House. We’ve now waited 42 days since its passage for the Senate response. We are being promised a bi-partisan bill. But still we wish we had a pollster.

We think it means something that the Senate has not been able to finalize and present its version of IDEA reauthorization. We all should claim it as our victory. We are making a difference. The Senators are hearing our voices although we do not yet know if they have heard our words. Most of what we have seen from Senate staffers and others suggests that the Senate sees our (the parents and students) primary concerns as full funding. Full funding is important to us, but is way down the list from the gutted provisions we are concerned have permanently been taken from us. We need to fight to get them back in.

Maybe the pollsters would tell us that the Senate would respond to a specific approach or to certain ideas about small changes. Maybe a pollster would tell us that the Senate really doesn’t want to hear from parents but wants to hear from lobbyists, advocacy groups and formal organizations. Maybe the pollsters would say we are trying to hard and the Senate is going to do right by us if we just leave them alone. Thank Goodness we don’t have a pollster!

Our fight for strong IDEA reauthorization legislation truly has been unique in its diversity. There hasn’t been one idea, but hundreds. There hasn’t been one leadership voice, but thousands of parents and students exercising leadership over their own needs and their own concerns. There hasn’t been one advocacy organizations leading the way, but all have raised their voices in unison to decry the meat axe approach the House took to the IDEA we all have fought so hard to keep. In all this diversity of opinion and approach there has been harmony and unity in our willingness to express ourselves and to fight to save the civil rights bill upon which the hopes of 6.6 million students annual rests.

Our rumor mill tells us that if the Senate doesn’t introduce something by tomorrow (Friday the 13th), nothing will be introduced until after the July 4th break. Senate staffers have affirmed for us the rumors we’ve seen on listservs and websites encouraging us to act now, before the bill is introduced, rather than waiting to contest the language that finally is introduced. We wholeheartedly agree with that approach and urge everyone to continue to contact the US Senators in their state and the Senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions [HELP] Committee. Tell them the top three things you need for the Senate bill to contain and why it is necessary to include them. Use personal stories to make the need obvious to them. Send them pictures of your children and family. Let them hear your voice AND the words you are saying. Write down the names of the people with whom you speak, promise them you will make a follow up call to them and then do so.

There are two IDEA rallies scheduled in Washington on June 13th and June 17th. If you are like us, you will not be able to drop everything to go and attend the rallies. Support those who can go by calling your Senators’ offices at some point on the 13th and the 17th and tell your Senators that your body would be in Washington if your heart wasn’t needed at home. Let them know that however big the rallies might be in Washington, there are millions of others who are at the rallies in spirit.

Every day is a critical day in the fight to save IDEA. We are making a difference in what the final reauthorization bill will look like. Through the last three months we have been proud of the effort that parents, students and advocacy agencies have expended working toward a common goal. We also have been amazed and impressed with the number of different and unique individuals and groups have reached out to make a meaningful impression on the legislators who hold our children’s future in their hands. Don’t let up. Don’t sit down. Don’t look for a pollster or politician to tell you that we are winning or even that we are making a difference. Believe in your heart that your work will succeed. We believe in our hearts that without your work we will not succeed.

Calvin and Tricia Luker, Parents of
Jessica, Missy, Lara and Will

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