Parents Rally in Harrisburg, March 23, 2004
Don't Leave Us Behind!
On Tuesday, March 23, 2004, several hundred parents, students, and friends rallied at the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg to show their support for funding Approved Private Schools which serve Pennsylvania's most severely disabled students. Parents had an opportunity to visit Legislators in an effort to impress upon them the need to change the current blueprint used to fund Approved Private Schools (APS). The twenty-nine Approved Private Schools provide educational services to 4,200 children with disabilities including Autism, Mental Retardation, Cerebral Palsy, Deafness, Blindness, Physical Disabilities, and more. Currently The Dept. of Education pays 60% of the tuition for these children while the local School Districts pay 40%. Yearly, the Department of Education withholds a portion of the tuition until an audit is completed. The schools are then supposed to be paid from the Audit Resolution Fund. As of today, the Audit Resolution Fund is nearly empty and the APSs are owed over 38 million dollars dating back as far as 2001. The Department of Education says it has no legal obligation to repay this money owed for services rendered. The lack of funding and huge debt left unpaid puts the educational services for severely disabled students in jeopardy. This shameless lack of liability leaves the burden on already overburdened Local School Districts and taxpayers. The largest concern is what will happen to these children if their schools close down due to lack of funding.
Chartered busses picked parents up at several locations including Exton, Plymouth Meeting Mall, and City Line Avenue. Many people drove to Harrisburg in car pools or traveled by railway. Upon arriving, parents signed in and received handouts, snacks, and beverages. Badges were handed out assisting protestors in identifying one another. Everyone was then given the opportunity to visit their Legislator's office to share their story and impress the need to amend this crisis now. At 1 PM the rally took place on the steps in the Capitol Rotunda. Many people spoke at the rally but sound was a problem for some leaving a small portion of rally-goers straining to hear. Along with parents, some of the speakers who spoke on behalf of our children were Representatives Robert Thompson, Carole Rubley, Edwin Erickson, Dennis O'Brien, and Constance Williams. Overall, the rally was a great success. It was organized and followed schedule. No doubt a great impact was made. What was disappointing was the lack of media coverage.
Parents still need to make their voices heard! Please visit the links below for more ways you can help. Those who attended the rally should make follow-up calls or letters to those Legislators you did not get to see in person as well as those who were supportive.
Rally Follow-up Form Letter to send your State Representative or State Senator
The Write Thing....Template Letters you can copy and send your Representative
Call Your Senators Sample Script
Sign the League of Special Education Voters ' Online Petition
For more Information: Parents Supporting I.D.E.A.
Return to Parents Exchange Homepage
Photos of the Rally to be posted soon!