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Town Hall Question

September 1, 2000

How are you going to reform special education?

Lauren Parris
Renton, WA

Lauren, thank you for visiting our electronic Town Hall. To answer your question, I know that the nation's legal and moral commitment to providing a free and appropriate education to students with disabilities has opened the doors of public schools to millions of students. We must substantially increase the federal investment to support states and school districts in guaranteeing this essential right, while ensuring adequate support to help all children get a high-quality education. The federal government must become a stronger partner to help states and school districts uphold this important obligation, while maintaining the investments needed to provide all of our children with a high-quality education.

My education plan includes strengthening the nation's commitment to providing students with disabilities access to a free and appropriate public education. It sets aside funding to make the largest single increase ever enacted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. My plan also establishes funding pools to help small school districts pay for the education of students with especially high-cost special needs. I have also proposed an early identification and intervention fund and investment in training teachers to address the needs of students with disabilities.

August 10th, 1999

Does the Vice President support the Americans with Disabilities Act? What types of support is he offering the disabled community?

Evanston, IL

Yes, I strongly support the Americans with Disabilities Act. I co-sponsored and voted for it when I served in the United States Senate. As a nation and as a people, we must together make a commitment to help every American take full advantage of every opportunity and help every American make their full contribution to our society. I see on our horizon an America where people with disabilities are fully respected for the abilities they have everywhere in our land.

July 27th, 1999

I am a single mom with twins with disabilities. I am also a Special needs Coordinator for my local Co. and I have an idea for web pages on local resources for families who have children or adults with disabilities. I have watched the programs for this minority group be cut time and time again. What kind of nation are we when we overlook the needs of our disabled population? These families need resources but most importantly they need to know where to find them. I have knowledge about local resources and the families I serve hear about these resources. I can name other people who have knowledge for families, but there are families who are not in the circle of knowledge and they are going without resources.

With the cuts in budgets people talk about community resources. We need a way for families to find out what community resources are available. I want to believe in our political system but have trouble when families are told that because of budget cuts they are going to have to look to their community and there is no universal way to find out what our communities offer. I want to know if you are interested if finding out more about a way to assist a population whose voices are weak but have families who are standing behind them, and our voices are strong?

Seattle, WA

First, Christine, let me say, on the personal front, how much I admire you—it can not be easy to be a parent in your situation. I hope you have a strong network of family and friends around you to offer help and support. On the policy front, I have long been an advocate for community support for families just like yours. As a member of Congress, I was an original co-sponsor of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability and required stores, restaurants, and other public facilities to make reasonable accommodations for the disabled.

In addition, our administration has directed key Federal civil rights agencies to increase their outreach efforts to individuals with disabilities, including those in diverse cultural communities, of varying racial and ethnic minorities and rural residents.

We have also taken steps to help ensure that people with disabilities have access to quality health care by increasing home and community-based programs. In July of 1998 the Health Care Financing Administration directed State Medicaid Directors (SMD) to provide services to people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs and in conjunction with the ADA. We are encouraging SMD’s to help the disabled become more integrated into their communities. We have approved over 300 waivers to increase in-home and community-based services.

If elected President, I promise to increase funding for independent living center grants. It is important to empower communities to support families in need and to make sure that everyone who needs these services has immediate and direct access to these services.

Thank you for your question.

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