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NEA president: Vouchers are a bad idea for students with disabilities

NEA president reacts to Gov. Sarah Palin's plan to help students with disabilities

WASHINGTON - October 24, 2008 -

Gov. Sarah Palin delivered her first major policy speech today, laying out the campaign's plans to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Palin said she and Sen. John McCain want to boost funding for special needs children and create a voucher system for parents allowing them to use federal dollars to send their child to either a public or private school.

The following can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

"NEA has long supported fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act-but failed voucher schemes will not help accomplish that goal. Our most vulnerable students need to be able to count on the services promised to them by the federal government. And those services should be provided in the child's neighborhood schools.

"The reality is that parents and children would lose a number of rights if special education services were funded through vouchers. Right now, parents and school employees help develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that helps students receive services tailored to their needs. IEPs must be reviewed periodically, they can be revised and they are enforceable by law. But when parents accept a voucher, these protections do not apply. We must have an accountability system that protects students with disabilities.

"Thirty years ago, the government promised to pay 40 percent of the cost of educating children with special needs. That promise remains unfulfilled to this day. Sen. McCain claims that he would exempt special needs programs from the spending freeze he has been touting during the debates. However, the campaign promise does not seem to match Sen. John McCain's voting record. He has voted against granting additional health benefits to children with special needs. McCain does not support mandatory Medicaid coverage for people with disabilities.

"America's families don't want voucher schemes. They want a real plan to address our country's education needs and the needs of students with disabilities.

"Sen. Barack Obama's record demonstrates that he is fully committed to students with special needs. He will fully fund IDEA, while making sure the services are available through neighborhood schools. He will make sure every student has access to the health benefits they need."

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby   (202) 822-7823