Senators Feinstein and Harris Urge the Senate to Fund Special Education in Future COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Last week Senators Feinstein and Harris joined 23 of their colleagues in signing on to a letter urging Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Schumer to ensure that funding for special education and protection of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is included in all future COVID-19 relief efforts. In the letter the senators explicitly call for funding both during the shelter in place orders as well as funding that will help students transition back to in person learning once schools reopen stating:

“These service adjustments are not meant to be a one-to-one tradeoff for services missed during COVID-19, but a plan to help students get back on track if they have regressed. We must help ensure that students continue to progress during this pandemic, and we believe that any waiver of IDEA will undermine that objective.”

Read the full letter here.

Special Education in the Time of COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Education is being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic leaving families scrambling to ensure their children with disabilities do not get left behind. The following resources should help clarify the current situation.

DREDF put together this detailed resource which explains the current landscape and offers resources and suggestions for what we can do to improve things. We have excerpted it below, but please do follow the link to read it in full:

“The scale and scope of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is clearly unprecedented. Parents are wondering how will shutdowns impact required timeline evaluations and meetings? At this early date, a great deal of confusion about what federal education and disability laws require remains, amplified by practical concerns about 1. what schools can actually provide, and 2. what families can actually access while students and staff stay at home.

Further complicating matters are reports that different school districts and even schools within the same district are answering these questions and responding to the challenges in delivering services differently. Concerns vary greatly – from the availability of quality internet connections, to needed equipment, training, translation and essential support remain unresolved as educators navigate this crisis.

One thing is clear: IF schools are operating and offering or requiring education, all students should be able to access it. How that gets done is a work in progress, and one that may take some time to sort out. What is important is the needs of ALL students, including students with disabilities who represent 14% of all students in our public schools, are part of the conversation and help devise workable solutions from the start…. (Read More)”

From the Department of Education:
Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities

From EdSource:
Despite assurances of flexibility, educators fear liability in online instruction of special ed students

Legislative Analyst Office Releases Report on Special Education in California

On November 6, 2019 the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) released their report Overview of Special Education in California which aims to inform fiscal and policy discussions in light of the legislature’s requirement to come up with a number of reforms “to improve academic outcomes of individuals with exceptional needs.” Some of the expected reforms codified in last years budget bill (SB 75) include:

  1. The role of special education local planning areas (SELPA’s) in the delivery of special education services, including increasing their accountability and incorporating them into a statewide system of support.
  2. Expansion of inclusive practice to ensure that every individual with exceptional needs has access to learn in the least restrictive environment.
  3. Opportunities for school districts to receive state and federal support to address disproportionate identification and placement of African American and other student subgroups, as well as disproportionate rates of discipline.
  4. Review of how funds are allocated for special education programs.

Nearly 800,000 students in California receive special education services and the state spends $13 billion to provide those services. However, the report found that despite the level of spending students with disabilities are not faring so well as many school districts reported poor outcomes for their students with disabilities. The majority of students with disabilities in California were reported as having “relatively mild conditions” while at the same time the number of students with “relatively severe disabilities” increased notably. The notable increase in students with severe disabilities is largely due to a significant rise in the number of students with autism (now about 1 in 50 as compared to 1 in 600 20 years ago).

Among the findings in the report is the fact that the suspension rate for students with disabilities is almost double the statewide rate for all students. In addition, students with disabilities have high rates of absenteeism with almost 1 in 5 missing 10% or more of the school year. This finding is particularly alarming because if we want to improve academic outcomes we have to start by first making sure the students are in school.

The full report:
https://lao.ca.gov/reports/2019/4110/overview-spec-ed-110619.pdf