Michael A. O'Connor
Michael A. O' Connor is a 1970 graduate of DePaul University School of Law, where he was an editor of the Law Review. He was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1970 and in New York in 1971. Mr. O’Connor worked in federally funded legal services programs serving low income families from 1970-1990. In 1990 he founded the Center for Law and Human Services and served as its Executive Director until 1998. While at the Center (since renamed the Center for Economic Progress) he established a Children’s SSI Advocacy Project which secured Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security benefits for over 1,000 Illinois foster children. He developed nationally recognized expertise in the area of tax benefits for lower income families, and he initiated a free tax preparation program which recruits and trains volunteers to prepare tax returns for lower income families. The Center’s program has become one of the largest volunteer tax preparation programs in the nation, completing 18,627 federal tax returns and generating tax refunds worth $28.5 million for the 2016 tax year. Since 1990, the Center has served more than 370,000 families, returning $560 million in tax refunds to clients.
In 1999 Mr. O’Connor started a consulting practice assisting non-profit organizations, units of local and state government, and foundations in the development of innovative programs serving lower income families. He participated in the initial design and start up of Mayor Daley’s EITC Outreach Program, which became a national model.
In addition to his consulting work, Mr. O’Connor initiated a law practice, representing parents in disputes with local school districts concerning special education services. Mr. O’Connor is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) a national organization of attorneys and advocates who represent parents in special education matters. From 2002 through 2007 he served as a board member and, from 2002-2006, he served as Treasurer of COPAA. From January, 2008 through November, 2016, Mr. O’Connor served on the Board of Directors of the Family Defense Center (http://www.familydefensecenter.net/), from November, 2009 to 2012 as Board President, and thereafter as Treasurer.
Mr. O’Connor authored a guide to education rights of displaced and homeless children http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/homeless.educate.htm. He has delivered numerous workshops and seminars at national conferences, including the International Dyslexia Association, COPAA, and the National Foster Parents Association. In July, 2005 he joined Sara Mauk in establishing Mauk & O’Connor, LLP, a law firm devoted to representing low and moderate income families in special education and disability related matters.
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