Monday, March 20, 2017

Which paraeducator bill? We support SB 5070

Paraeducators are critical members of the education team. They make education accessible to people with disabilities.

At The Arc of King County, we support Senate Bill 5070 and its Paraeducator Development Program. This will include statewide standards, professional development, a career ladder, an easier path to teacher certification, and training for teachers who supervise paraeducators.

The House paraeducator bill relies on optional efforts. Given the complexity of students with developmental disabilities we do not think this is viable.

Students with individual education programs (IEPs) spend most of their learning time with paraeducators, and they need trained, supported staff to help them meet their learning goals.

Weighing in is easy: To comment on any bill, click on the number. That will take you to the bill page. Once there, click on “Comment on this bill” button. (Hint: Legislative staff said some users have reported problems with the “verify district” step when using phones or handheld devices. You need to double click that button. Also, be sure the state is “WA” and not “Washington.”)

Following are comments we shared with the House Education committee on March 20, 2017.

To: House Education Committee
Re: Pro SB 5070, concerning paraeducators

Dear Chair Santos and committee members,

The Arc of King County supports SB 5070 and considers it the stronger paraeducator bill this session. For us, this legislation is primarily about our most complex students and the support they require in the K-12 system so that they can go on to live independent lives in the community.

About a third of Washington high school graduates go on to earn a post-secondary credential. Among students with disabilities, that number is just 8 percent. (Source: Education Research and Data Center. “A Credential by Age 26?”)

How does this play out for the youth we support?
  • More than 40 percent of people living in homelessness in the United States are people with disabilities.
  • That’s significant by itself, but considering just under 18 percent of the general adult population is reported to have a disability, this indicates that a significantly larger percentage of people with disabilities are homeless compared to the rest of the population. (Source: HUD, 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report;
  • People with developmental disabilities are among the nation’s poorest citizens. Many rely on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, which average 44 percent below federal poverty level, as their primary or sole source of income.

Paraeducators are the link to general education. They make it accessible to students in special education.  And whether a child has access to general education in grades K-12 and remains on the path to a general education diploma has a significant and long-term impact on the adult lives of people with intellectual or developmental disability. (Daviso, A., Denney, S., Baer, R., & Flexer, R. (2011). Postschool goals and transition services for students with learning disabilities. American Secondary Education, 39(2), 77-93)

When paraeducators are successful, students with disabilities can access the general education curriculum and learn what they need to know for life after high school. When paraeducators are not successful, students lose that access. They don’t share in the curriculum, and their education becomes disconnected from shared learning standards, with devastating lifetime results.

Over half of all instruction to complex students who need extra support or who have IEPs is provided by paraeducators. This position is critical to the success of students in special education and we cannot see how students can be assured of the support they require if paraeducator training, standards and certification are optional.


Ramona Hattendorf, Director of Advocacy
The Arc of King County
For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.