Rhode Island PTA is proud to support the following initiative - "Rhode Island State House: Pass the “RI Promise Reasonable Accommodations Legislation.” This initiative is working to make the RI Promise Scholarship accessible to students with disabilities. 

From Colleen and Heather: You can help ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship! Why should individuals with disabilities pay for school because they may need more time to graduate? The "RI Promise Reasonable Accommodations Legislation" sponsored by Rep Chippendale and Sen de la Cruz," ensures that those with disabilities get a graduation timeline reasonable to them.

Please read below for our story, the problem, and how you can help pass this legislation. 

Our Story

Calling all Parents, teachers, students, RI Citizens, and advocates:

Colleen & I are two mothers with 17-year-old children with IEP's who are about to graduate High School and aspire to go to college. In our life after the high school journey, we came to realize – something is not right here. The same opportunities for students with disabilities are not being offered at CCRI as they are to typical students. In this journey, we have found people enrolled at CCRI that are experiencing this different treatment. Suzzane is one of them. We are asking for your support to get our voices heard to amend the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship. As it currently is, this scholarship is a broken promise to all Rhode Islanders with a disability. We need your voice to help change this. 

 

The Problem

Due to a disability, many teenagers and adults need to attend college as part-time students for various reasons. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehab Act, if a person has a qualifying disability, they have the right to accommodations to ensure equal access. A change in course load is a reasonable accommodation. If a student requires to be at CCRI for more than two years, they must pay for school. This is an unfair practice and standard for all children and adults with disabilities looking to utilize the Promise Scholarship. 

Recently CCRI leadership acknowledged that this needs to change, and they are hopeful they can change the policy at their level. It is excellent they know this needs to change, but there are a few problems. 

1) It is the law of the promise scholarship that CCRI operates within. It is the law that needs to change. 

2) As of this moment, we do not know when their policy will change, what the changes are, and if it can be changed. 

3) We do not know if the policy will address the main issues, which are:

o  Will a student with disabilities' schedules remain versatile and allow the time needed to graduate, even if they may need to take remedial classes at the start of their journey?

o  Will students with disabilities who have been dropped from the program due to not meeting requirements be allowed to continue with the promise scholarship?

o  Will students with disabilities, since the scholarship began, be allowed in the program if they chose not to pursue it due to the time requirements?

o  Will students with disabilities who graduate older than the age of 19 be allowed to use the promise scholarship?

Actions- how you can help

o  Sign the petition, share the petition and ask others to sign
If you are someone (or know someone) who is impacted by this, please reach out to us. Click here for the petition link.

o  Please send e-mails or make phone calls to state leaders in support of the Bill. 

o  This link has contact information and form letters. 

o  We need people to come forward to write statements or give testimony of impact or support.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and helping our cause!

CALL TO ACTION

 

The first hearing for House Bill H5605 is scheduled for Wednesday, April 7th at 2pm.  There is also a full House of Representatives session being held at 4pm, so I expect the committee will re-convene to hear more testimony on this bill after the session is over.

 

What this bill proposes to do is to codify the "Reasonable Accommodations" clause into the existing RI Promise Scholarship.  While many administrators at CCRI have expressed support for Reasonable Accommodations, they have been hesitant to fully endorse a change in the law.  They believe that changing the policy, which they are working on, will be sufficient.  We do not share that belief.  Policy can change at any time if a new governor takes over, or a new administrator at the college takes over - laws cannot be changed so easily.  We want these protections to be codified into the law that created the RI Promise Scholarship - PERIOD.

 

What we are hoping for?  We want as many people as possible to verbally testify on this bill Wednesday.  We also want people to submit written testimony as well.  Ideally, everyone will do both.

 

Here's how it all works; 

 

Click THIS LINK to take you to the Committee Hearing Calendar for Wednesday

 

When you click that link you will see the details of the hearing as well as a link to read our bill, H5605. 

 

There is an email address for you to submit your written testimony to; HouseEducation@rilegislature.gov  

 

- Send your full written testimony to that email address.  In the subject line type "Please Pass House Bill H5605 - RI Promise for Disabled Rhode Islanders"

 

- We also want to reach each committee member on House Education Committee, so a brief email should be sent to each of them with the same Subject line suggested above, but with a more concise message in the body of the email.  You simply want to use your own words to tell the members to "support codifying the Federal protections of the ADA into the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship." The email address for each committee member is listed HERE

 

 - The most impactful step is to sign up to testify by telephone.  You can sign up to testify by phone by using the first link above for the Committee Calendar.  If you scroll to the bottom of the page, there are instructions for Verbal Testimony and a "CLICK HERE" link that will bring you to a page where you enter your name, phone number and your position on the bill (In Favor.)  THE DEADLINE TO SIGN UP FOR VERBAL TESTIMONY IS TUESDAY 4PM.  Please do this before you do any of the other steps above.

 

Once you are signed up to testify verbally, you will be called by the clerk of the committee during the hearing.  They only call once and if there is no answer, that number is scratched from the list.  Please follow the hearings either on Cable TV, or on your computer.  The information for watching the hearing is also on the Committee Calendar link at the top of this post.  Once you are called by the clerk - MUTE YOUR TV or COMPUTER otherwise horrible feedback will make it impossible to hear you.

 

Again, this hearing will start at 2pm and will most likely be interrupted by the House Session at 4pm, and then will reconvene after the session.  I would guess that the session will end around 5pm, with the committee potentially running until 7pm-midnight, depending on how many people want to testify. I urge everyone to continue watching once the session interrupts the committee for the hearing to resume.

 

I am expecting (hoping) for a large volume of testimony.  When that happens, the committee chairperson will often limit the time you have to testify.  I've seen heavy volume hearings only allow the person testifying 1 minute and 15 seconds before automatically hanging up on the witness.  So please keep your testimony short and concise.  The "must have" element to your testimony is; codifying the protections of the ADA into the RI Promise law. And then perhaps a short story of your loved one that this will help, or your general feelings on the issue.

 

If anyone has any questions about any aspect of this, please post them HERE and tag me in your post.  I will respond as quickly as possible.

 

THANK YOU ALL!!!!

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