News-in-Brief – June 2009

LDA Advocates for Literacy Funds

LDA is working for you to ensure that all children with specific learning disabilities have access to high-quality, evidence-based literacy instruction. In addition to the large increase for IDEA included in the stimulus bill, President Obama has made literacy a centerpiece of his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2010 (School Year 2010-11). LDA works closely with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Middle Grades Coalition, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children to promote literacy skills from early childhood through adulthood. Over the next months, LDA will join with these and other general and special education partners to advocate for significant increases in these crucial instructional programs.

The proposed budget includes increases for two programs that LDA strongly supports. A $50 million increase for Early Reading First would expand support for research-based early literacy for preschoolers. The other program, Striving Readers, would receive a $335 million increase, including a $30 million increase for adolescent literacy demonstration grants and $300 million for demonstration grants to school districts to implement comprehensive reading instruction programs in the elementary grades.

LDA is also advocating for increases in Title I and IDEA for FY2010. The president has not asked for increases in regular annual funding for these programs beyond the additional one-time funds added through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These programs are crucial for students with specific learning disabilities to be able to access and succeed in the general education curriculum and will be a major part of LDA’s advocacy efforts.

RTI State Database Now Available

A thought-provoking, new state database is now available with resources on a number of topics related to response to intervention (RTI). The National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRI), a project funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), has collected policy documents and briefs, training modules, and other tools and information developed by states across the country, as they move to implement RTI. The easy-to-use RTI State database  includes a tool that allows quick comparison of the states’ stages of implementation and the materials they have produced to assist school districts through the process. Find discussion boards and a listing of RTI-related events at the main Center website.

LDA Joins Forces on ESEA Reauthorization

While LDA has its own recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind), we are one of a core group of national organizations involved in a broad effort to change the tone and focus of the current law. The Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) arose as a working group after the release in 2004 of the “Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB” with supporting signatures from 20+ organizations including LDA. The statement now has 149 education, civil rights, religious, and disability organizations signed on. FEA has now developed several key documents to expand upon the principles outlined in the Joint Statement and is advocating on Capitol Hill and the White House for key changes in the law. LDA is a critical part of this effort.

FEA produced an excellent document looking at the key components of capacity-building that are integral to improving student outcomes under ESEA. The group also commissioned a report on assessment and accountability by leading experts in the field, including Dr. Alba Ortiz, special education professor at the University of Texas, Austin. FEA will soon be rolling out document that looks at the whole child, family involvement, and the key roles of the federal government in ensuring that schools meet the needs of each individual child.

LDA’s presence at the table ensures that each document and each discussion includes students with disabilities. As part of the small core group that directs the activities of the coalition, LDA Policy Director Myrna Mandlawitz and LDA Washington Representative Justine Maloney are influential in guiding the direction FEA is taking. In addition, Myrna has represented FEA’s positions at several national meetings. LDA understands the importance of working with a wide range of stakeholders to secure policies that will help every student to be more successful.

LDA Works to Make Text-to-Speech Available

As part of the newly formed Reading Rights Coalition, LDA is working to provide access to text-to-speech (TTS) features of Amazon’s new Kindle 2 wireless reading device for individuals with learning and other disabilities that affect the use of standard reading materials. Authors and publishers have the option to disable the TTS feature when their books are sold, and quite a few have already opted to do so. LDA has participated through its New York affiliate in a protest at the Authors Guild in New York City, and LDA board member Steve Noble is keeping the coalition informed of the effects of Amazon’s policies on people with learning disabilities. The RRC is exploring a variety of other means to change Amazon’s policy. In addition, the coalition is monitoring an international treaty discussion that would allow copyright exceptions enabling individuals with print disabilities access to written materials.

For the first time ever, the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which creates international copyright treaties, is trying to develop a copyright treaty to protect the interests of both copyright users and owners. Unfortunately some major powers, including the United States, Canada, the European Union, Norway, and the Vatican, are opposing this effort. At the conclusion of the May meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights of the WIPO, no decision had been reached on the treaty, and further discussion was carried over to the next meeting in late fall. LDA will work with other Reading Rights Coalition members in communicating to the White House our serious concerns about U.S. opposition to this important international treaty.

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