LAPORTE, Colo. (CBS4) – It isn’t easy getting the attention of a U.S. representative, but Congressman Joe Neguse says when he read letters from students at Cache La Poudre Middle School in Laporte, he was compelled to respond in person.
“Hearing you all make the case really inspired me,” Neguse told the students at an assembly Tuesday.
They wrote the letters as part of an assignment, but could have chosen any issue. Most of the 100 letters asked for help for classmates with disabilities.
“I was moved by the idea that you have these young folks who care about any number of important issues, but for them this issue would rise to the top,” said Neguse.
He had already made special education funding a priority.
“Hearing from the students only further underscored how important this was.”
Ella Modesitt one of those students. She wrote about the challenges faced by friends and family with disabilities.
“I see how they’re treated, and it hurts.”
Chase Streeter wrote about the lack of inclusion for people with disabilities. He admits he didn’t expect to hear back.
“I’m a middle schooler. How can what I say count? Yet, I’m sure he took what we said into consideration.”
In fact, Neguse visited the students last year and promised action. He came back with a progress report.
“We were able to secure an extra $400 million!”
The money will help fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which became law 40 years ago and is only 15% funded. Neguse has also introduced a bill to fully fund it.
“And really stay true to the promise the federal government made to these families and these students.”
As he makes good on his promise to middle schoolers, who not only got the attention of their Congressman, they even got to shoot hoops with him too. Neguse hopes they will inspire their peers at other schools to pitch ideas.
Neguse introduced 30 bills in his first year in Congress and he says most of them were inspired by people in his district.