Educators and other interested parties may wish to contact the Education Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly to express support for SB 1142, An Act Concerning Relief of State Mandates on School Districts. Among other provisions, this bill would finally bring Connecticut in line with other states and with the 2005 United States Supreme Court decision in Schaffer v. Weast, which held that under IDEA, the burden of proof in a special education due process hearing should be on the party requesting the hearing. Despite this Supreme Court decision, since 2005, Connecticut has failed to remove the provision placing the burden of proof on the school district from the state regulations concerning special education hearings, thereby sending the message to school districts that the programs they develop for children with disabilities should be considered inappropriate unless the school district proves otherwise. Placing the burden of proof on the school district drives up the administrative costs of special education by causing hearings to be longer and more expensive, since every allegation made by a parent needs to be “disproved” by the school district. Perhaps more importantly, there is no correlation between the burden of proof being imposed on the school district and improvement in the quality of services provided to children with special needs. On the contrary, the burden imposed on school districts by lengthy and costly special education hearings often drives talented educators out of the public schools.
Parent advocacy groups are certainly taking advantage of the opportunity to lobby the Education Committee to take this provision out of SB 1142. If you support this provision, time is of the essence to get your comments to them. Mailing Address:
Room 3100, Legislative Office Building
Hartford, CT 06106
You can find a copy of the bill and track its progress at CGA. Contact information for the legislators on the Education Committee is also available at this website.