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The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD) was established originally under the name Ohio Coalition for the Education of Handicapped Children in 1972. It was founded by five parent/citizen groups along with three professional groups to advocate for the appropriate education of children with disabilities. The five parent/citizen groups were called Citizens Committees for Special Education from the following Ohio cities: Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus.

The majority of these parents on the committees had children with learning disabilities or mental retardation. The major committee representatives at the beginning were Paula Pierce, of Dayton, who had a son with hearing impairment; Pat Lilac, also of Dayton, who had a daughter with a hearing impairment; Mary Rumm, of Toledo, who had a child with learning disabilities; Mary Giallombardo, of Cleveland, who had a child with learning disabilities; Ed Lippitt, of Dayton, who had child with cerebral palsy; and Ray Horn, of Columbus, who had a daughter with mental retardation.

The three professional groups who offered financial and organizational support to these parent committees were: the Ohio School Psychology Association (O.S.P.A.), the Ohio Federation Council for Exceptional Children (O.F.C.E.C.) and the Ohio Speech and Hearing Association (O.S.H.A.). Originally The Ohio Coalition was funded only by private donations from the parent and professional organizations. The groups formed the coalition because, like most states at the time, Ohio excluded many children with disabilities from public education. Unable to make progress in that public policy arena, the groups decided to come together to insure that parents' voices were heard regarding significant public policy issues affecting children with disabilities. The professional organizations, through the dues and donations of their members provided the financial support for the parents who volunteered.

Kay Hughes, from Columbus, a parent of a son with a learning disability, served as the first director of the organization in 1972. O.C.E.H.C. was incorporated in 1974 and became a 501 (c) 3 non profit organization. The initial trustees of the organization were Robert Carson, Sylvania, Ohio; Patricia Ann Lilac, Dayton, Ohio; and Jack Dauterman, Columbus, Ohio, all parents or consumers. Kay Hughes was followed as director by Paula Pierce, from Dayton, a parent of a son with a hearing impairment as the second director, followed by Linda Sabo, from Columbus, a parent of a daughter with learning disabilities as the third director. In December 1979, Margaret Burley, became the director after serving on the Ohio Coalition Board of Directors for 5 years.

Margaret Burley's son was born in 1962 and had been diagnosed with Congenital Rubella Syndrome which left him blind and mentally challenged. She had to fight for educational services for him when he became of school age since his severe disabilities led the school district to determine that he was inappropriate for public education. This was an administrative determination called an E-1 Exclusion in Ohio.

Margaret Burley said on November 29, 1975, Public Law 94-142 was passed and signed by President Gerald Ford. When it was announced she was at the ARC Ohio Convention in Columbus, Ohio. In July 1976, Ohio had not complied with P.L. 94-142 and a Cleveland parent filed a complaint. Ohio’s federal money was withheld because they had not complied. Rep. Mike Stinziano sponsored Amended H.B. 455 (later in the Ohio Revised Code as Chapter 3323) which brought Ohio into compliance with Federal law 94-142 and Ohio had to start educating all students with disabilities.

In 1983, the organization obtained its first grant from the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Planning Council to establish and carry out the work of the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Legislative Coalition. The Coalition worked with residential and day program service providers to represent the interests of persons with MR/DD. This activity continued until 1989. In 1984, the Ohio Department of Education, through the Division of Special Education, first funded the Parent/Educator Partnership Project, a program developed to provide a three-day training to parents and principals. The purpose of the program was not only to inform parents and educators about the requirements of P.L. 94-142, but also to establish collaborative working relationships between parents and educators. Also, in 1984 the Ohio Coalition was funded by the U.S. Department of Education to expand the Parent Education Team Training Project and to become the first statewide Parent Training and Information Center for Ohio.

In 1996, the Ohio Coalition Governing Board voted to change the name of the organization from the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Handicapped Children to Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD) to use people first language.

During its history the work of the Ohio Coalition in promoting the voice of parents and consumers has facilitated many changes in public policy and in Ohio law. A few of these include:

1. 1976, the passage of H.B. 455, Ohio's version of P.L. 94-142, was passed,

2. 1989, supported the change of Ohio Developmental Disability definition to match the federal definition and supported the change to mandatory preschool special education and added funding for it in the state budget,

3. 2001, supported the change for special education funding to a 6 weight per pupil formula, and

4. 2002, led the effort to change state standards to meet federal IDEA requirements.

OCECD has obtained and maintained a grant since 1984 from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to be the Parent Training and Information Center for Ohio. Since 1987, the Ohio Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood has funded them for training of parents of young children 0-9 on the child development, finding services, transitions, and parents' rights, etc. Currently,  the Division's name is the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness. The Ohio Coalition has also received regular funding from the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children, for the Parent Involvement in Education Project now called Meaningful Parent Engagemen, Prevention of Juvenile Detention Project and a subcontract for Ohio's State Improvement Grant (SIG/OISM) implementation now called SPDG (State Professional Developoment Grant). The Ohio Coalition also had a subcontract with the University of Minnesota from the North Central Regional Resource Center to support parent activities for the centers in its nine state region. The Ohio Coalition still maintains state and federally funded grants today some with a different focus than in previous years. Other funders have included the Ohio Department of Health; the Columbus Foundation; The Ohio State University Research Foundation; and the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission.

Under the direction of Margaret Burley and Lee Ann Derugen, the Ohio Coalition has grown from a part-time Director (paid with dues from the three professional organizations) in 1979 to a fully functioning agency advocating for and support the provision of appropriate educational services for children with disabilities and advocating for parent and family support services. 

Throughout the years, the Ohio Coalition has focused on giving a voice to the parents and families of children dealing with the challenges of disability, and it has worked to promote support for the professionals who work with them. The Ohio Coalition functions with 28 staff in 15 offices across Ohio all serving families of children with any disability ages 0-26. It currently operates with a budget of over two and a half million dollars.

Ideas that work, Office of special education programs, U.S. department of education.