Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Wanted: Your wisdom on equity, diversity, and inclusion

Image of red qoute box, with survey form inside
Equity, diversity, and inclusion strategic listening sessions:
Attend a live session August 23 or 29 (info below) or take a survey
(See below for links to Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese translations of the survey)


The following is from the state Developmental Disabilities Administration:

Dear Partners and Stakeholders:

In the next several weeks you have a couple opportunities to share your ideas on how state agencies can better identify and address opportunity gaps and inequities. Governor Inslee is committed to ensuring that Washington state prioritizes outreach efforts that underscore the value of equity and inclusion. Through the Washington State Office of Equity, he has asked all state agencies to gather collective wisdom from stakeholders, families and clients to co-create a five-year equity strategic plan that helps Washington to bridge opportunity gaps and reduce disparities. Your feedback will assist the new state Office of Equity and DSHS to help guide positive change.

You can share your voice in the following ways:

Listening Sessions hosted by DDA and DD Council

The state Developmental Disabilities Administration and the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council are hosting community/stakeholder equity strategic planning listening sessions. See the time, date and registration information below.

Monday, Aug. 23, 2021
Time: 5 to 8 p.m. PST
Zoom registration link: https://dshs-telehealth.zoom.us/j/87536021383?pwd=N0J5R25SOU1jSFpMQ1dCRUtEQXY4dz09

Passcode: 903868
Meeting ID: 875 3602 1383

One tap mobile
+12532158782,,87536021383#,,,,*903868# US (Tacoma)
+16699006833,,87536021383#,,,,*903868# US (San Jose)


 Friday, Aug. 27, 2021

Time: 1 to 4 p.m. PST
Zoom Registration Link: https://dshs-telehealth.zoom.us/j/87434340039?pwd=NW5ZcDhQN1FhbTNyYnp5NEsyN09IZz09

Passcode: 578342
Meeting ID: 874 3434 0039

One tap mobile
+12532158782,,87434340039#,,,,*578342# US (Tacoma)
+16699006833,,87434340039#,,,,*578342# US (San Jose)

Accessibility notes: Language interpretation, sign language, closed captioning and Communication Access Real-Time Translation services are available upon request. If you need any other reasonable accommodation to engage during the listening session, please let us know as soon as possible, or no less than 10 days prior to the scheduled time. You may make your request by emailing chanjk@dshs.wa.gov

Survey to share ideas

Please complete the Office of Equity survey using the links below. 

In addition to attending one of our listening sessions (or if you are unable to attend our listening sessions), please take the time complete this survey:

ENGLISH: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=F-LQEU4mCkCLoFfcwSfXLX3oGaLIVgZNrIW8ST9dLBpUOUtPNUdESjlVUU1VWE9ZWlpXUkdBNTEwMS4u

SPANISH: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=F-LQEU4mCkCLoFfcwSfXLX3oGaLIVgZNrIW8ST9dLBpUQTZWT09KSjJXT0VUWDlUWEowQzRPV05RWi4u

CHINESE: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=F-LQEU4mCkCLoFfcwSfXLX3oGaLIVgZNrIW8ST9dLBpUQTdDT1M0NkNFMzVEME9ZTVFOS1o4MlZEVS4u

KOREAN: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=F-LQEU4mCkCLoFfcwSfXLX3oGaLIVgZNrIW8ST9dLBpUMENZOFFPNExZMTJTVEZNQlFFSzJPVjhPTy4u

VIETNAMESE: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=F-LQEU4mCkCLoFfcwSfXLX3oGaLIVgZNrIW8ST9dLBpUMVE0R1NCWEczTFlCOFNEM0pUQ0NENVYxVi4u

Survey requests: Please send your comments, requests and questions about the survey and survey accessibility, including language translation, screen readers and font sizes, to equityinfo@wa.gov.

About the Washington State Office of Equity: 

The newly created Washington State Office of Equity was established by the Legislature and signed into law in April 2020 because the Legislature found that:

The population of Washington state has become increasingly diverse over the last several decades.

As the demographics of our state change, historically and currently marginalized communities still do not have the same opportunities to meet parity as their non-marginalized counterparts across nearly every measure including education, poverty, employment, health and more.

Inequities based on race, ethnicity, gender and other characteristics continue to be deep, pervasive and persistent, and they come at a great economic and social cost.

Wanted: Family advisors from the developmental disabilities community

Do you have a young child with a developmental disability? Positions are open on the Early Learning Advisory Council

The state’s Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) is accepting applications. The council helps ensure the early learning work of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) is informed by the community.

Applications are due August 31.

Open positions include two charged with representing children and families from the developmental disabilities community:

  • Developmental disabilities – infants and toddlers.

Representative from the developmental disabilities community representing children and families involved in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Part C covers birth to 3 supports, also called early supports for infants and toddlers (ESIT). If you are a parent of child who uses 0-3 supports, please consider applying.

  • Developmental disabilities – preschoolers

Representative from the developmental disabilities community representing children and families involved in Part B of IDEA.

Part B covers special education services for children ages 3 to 21. If you are a parent of a preschooler using special education services, please consider applying.

Other open positions for community members include:

  •  An infant or early childhood mental health expert
  • A family, friend or neighbor caregiver
  • A pediatrician

There are also open positions that represent advocacy groups, businesses, and other organizations. The full list of openings is on the application.

To apply: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JCN2YTC



ELAC representatives from around the state meet regularly to provide input and recommendations to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) so the department's strategies and actions are well informed and broadly supported by parents, child care providers, health and safety experts, and interested members of the public.

Governor Jay Inslee holds final authority for policy decisions.

The council has adopted a Racial Equity Framework through which it conducts its business as an advisory board to DCYF.

The council was created by the state legislature in 2007. Earlier this year the legislature expanded membership as part of the Fair Starts for Kids Act.

More about the Early Learning Advisory Council: https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/about/community-engagement/elac

You can also access meeting agendas and minutes from the ELAC webpage. All meetings are open to the public.

KNOW SOMEONE WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED? Please share this opportunity!

QUESTIONS? TRANSLATION? If you have questions about this recruitment or would like to request translation, please contact dcyf.communityengagement@dcyf.wa.gov


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

WA schools need assistance implementing ideals of IDEA

For the 7th year, our state falls short in federal review of special education services


IMAGE: A crowd of students lined up

Once again, Washington state has been determined “needs assistance” for provision of special education services for children ages 3 to 21. Washington has failed to meet the requirements and purposes of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) since 2014, when results were added to the annual federal review.

Results refer to the ideals of IDEA: Equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

The other area of review is compliance; this refers to following the rules laid in IDEA.

Our problem: Results

Special education services for children ages 3 to 21 are covered under Part B of IDEA. In this category, Washington was determined to need assistance, for 2 or more consecutive years. The department uses both compliance and results data to determine standing. Compliance is weighted at 60 percent; results are weighted at 40 percent.

The 2021 details of how the state scored were not publicly posted, but last years’ results showed the state scored 100 percent for compliance (20 out of 20 points). That is, there were timely evaluations, due process hearings and complaint decisions, and similar compliance with IDEA rules. Where the state scored low - just 50 percent, or 12 out of 24 points - was with results.

Last year, Washington scored zeros for drop-out rates of students with IEPs and for rates of graduation with a regular high school diploma. We also scored a string of 1s for participation of students with IEPs in state assessments, and for basic proficiency in math and reading, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

For comparison, in 2014 the state scored 21 out of 22 for compliance and 7 out of 20 for results.

While the matrix used in the federal review isn’t readily accessible to the public, you can view some state-level data in the annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This report captures least restricted environment and exiting data.

On drop-out rates and graduation with a regular diploma, Washington hasn’t budged much since 2009.

  • The rate of Washington students with individual education programs (IEPs) dropping out was 32.6 percent in 2009-10 and 31.8 percent in 2017-18.

  • Rates of graduation with a regular diploma were 64.1 percent in 2009-10 and 64.5 in 2017-18.

On least restricted environment we continue to trail the nation.

  • For ages 3 to 5: Washington is 4th lowest for most inclusive setting and 4th highest for most segregated.

  • For ages 6-21: Washington is 8th lowest for spending 80 percent or more of the school day in a regular class.

  • For students with intellectual disabilities, we are 2nd lowest for spending 80 percent or more of the school day in a regular class.

Data is collected from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

There are 17 indicators used to assess results:

One highlight: Birth to 3 supports are covered under Part C of IDEA. In this category, Washington continues to meet requirements. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) is the lead agency, and King County helps administer the programs locally, in partnership with private providers.

Birth to 3 supports target overall child well-being, with focus on the developmental areas of social and emotional, cognitive, physical, self-help, and language.

Learn more about birth to 3 supports:


What now?

The federal government directed the state to technical assistance. Washington must report back on which sources it used and what actions the state took because of that technical assistance.

In its follow up last year, Washington state said it is committing more resources to address areas in which there was slippage or targets were not met, including:

  • Least restrictive environment for ages 3-5
  • Early childhood outcomes
  • Rates of students with disabilities enrolled in higher education


What is IDEA and what are schools supposed to provide?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates birth to 3 supports - also called early supports for infants or toddlers, or ESIT – and special education services and related supports for qualifying children ages 3 to 21.

Under federal anti-discrimination laws Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with disabilities have the right to equal access to educational opportunities and benefits, in the most integrated setting appropriate. Services and supports outlined in IDEA provide that access.

Every year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) assesses how the states are doing. This is because IDEA is a grant bill. That means it grants, or gives, money to schools or lead agencies if they follow certain rules and achieve acceptable results. If schools or lead agencies do not follow the rules laid out in IDEA, or post poor results, they risk losing federal funding.

While Washington state continues to meet requirements for birth to 3 supports, it does not do so for older children, ages 3 to 21, supported by our school districts. Of particular note, Washington does not require schools to use best practices:

  • Washington allows school districts to segregate students with disabilities at high rates, despite decades of research affirming the benefit of inclusion. Inclusive learning includes using practices and providing resources needed to support marginalized students, as well as placement of students in the general education classroom. Research does not support placing students with disabilities in separate settings. In fact, research shows young students who were taught skills, and then placed in separates classes or schools, experienced a decline in learning, bringing to question whether children served in birth to 3 programs lose ground when moved into segregated school district programs.
  • Despite legal mandates that all children have the right to least restricted environment - which in the preschool years is defined as a regular early learning classroom, with at least 50 percent non-disabled students - many Washington school districts continue to funnel students and families exclusively to segregated developmental programs. If school districts do not offer general education preschools, IEP teams can place students in other community preschool or childcare options.

Families who use languages other than English also continue to report that they do not have access to translated information about special education services, including their child's IEP.

On the annual federal reviews and determination:

Compliance refers to school staff following the rules laid out in IDEA. Protecting the rights of children with disabilities and their families is a key responsibility of state educational agencies (in Washington, that is the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) and local educational agencies. In Washington, local agencies include school districts, charter schools, and state-tribal education compact schools.

Results refers to the ideals of IDEA: Equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

If a state “needs assistance” for two consecutive years, OSER (the federal oversight branch for special education services) must take one or more enforcement actions. These can include requiring the state to access technical assistance, designating the state as a high-risk grantee, or directing the use of state set-aside funds to the area(s) where the state needs assistance.

This year, Washington was directed to technical assistance. The details of how Washington scored were posted to a secured database that is not accessible to the general public. Washington must report back on technical assistance used and actions taken by February 2022.

Related resources:


This article was written by Ramona Hattendorf, director of advocacy at The Arc of King County, using resources posted the IDEA web page of the U.S. Department of Education. It also pulls from the U.S. Education Department and U.S. Health and Human Services Department Policy Statement on Inclusion in Early Childhood Programs.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Got questions about student supports and "recovery services"?

ADVICE FOR PARENTS: Look at the progress report. Don't wait - request an IEP meeting if adequate progress is not being made. If there is no progress report, request an evaluation.

Parents are hearing conflicting things about recovery services - or not hearing anything at all. We met recently with senior staff at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and with senior ombuds from the governor's Office of the Education Ombuds to see what they are hearing and what information they are sharing. 

We crafted the following based on what we learned.

Yes - there is funding, and an expectation of support

There are several pots of money for recovery services for students with disabilities, but lots of questions about what recovery means, what schools must offer, and what families can expect.
First, it is important to note that the term “recovery services” is being used in several ways.

General education recovery

Federal funds have been flowing for months to help schools address challenges caused by the pandemic. These funds can be used for special education services, as well other general education supports. 

School district recovery plans and spending should be inclusive of all K-12 students, including students with disabilities. This means students with disabilities can't be excluded or denied from accessing general education recovery services. If a school hires additional counselors, they need to be accessible to students with disabilities. If they contract with a community-based group to provide wrap-around support, then students with disabilities need access.

From the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI):

"Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly called 'Section 504,' is a federal law that protects students from discrimination based on disability. This law applies to all programs and activities that receive funding from the federal government - including Washington public schools.

"Federal and state law protect students from disability discrimination in public schools. These laws make sure that students with disabilities have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to students without disabilities."

The Americans with Disabilities Act also provides protection. Title II of the ADA prohibits state and local government from discriminating against persons with disabilities. This includes public schools.

Special education recovery

There are also recovery and compensatory services specific to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

These are available for 0-3 supports, and special education services for preschool through grade 12 and/or transition services. This pot of federal funds will be released July 1. These funds can be used for recovery and compensatory services under IDEA; they can also be used for other spending in alignment with IDEA, such as staff training.

Transition recovery services

Finally, the state legislature designated funds to support students aging out of IDEA but who still need secondary transition recovery services.

Some takeaways for families

School districts can tap different pots of federal funds to support students with disabilities. Those supports may occur as part of school-wide recovery efforts available to any student in need, or through special education services as identified by the individual education program (IEP) team.

Schools can offer students with disabilities support independent of the IEP process. For instance, if they know a group of students would benefit from tutoring (students with and without IEPs), they can offer tutoring to whomever needs it. IEP teams could then follow up with a progress review to see if students with IEPs need additional, individualized support through their IEPs.

And for students who aged out of special education during the pandemic, state-funded recovery services may be available.


Time frame for services: 1 to 2 years

There is an expectation that recovery supports will be offered over the next 1 to 2 years. OSPI has advised school district leaders to start with students least able to access education.

OSPI also advised district leaders that they can be flexible in how and when special education recovery services are offered. Some students and families (and staff) may be feeling burnt out. Schools offering summer support could do 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. Or they could start the fall semester early. They could plan for support during winter, mid-winter, and spring breaks.

It really depends on the student's needs.

Parents - check those progress reports!

For parents uncertain about recovery services, OSPI advises them to check their student’s progress reports. If there is data that shows their student failed to make progress, then they are advised to reach out sooner rather than later and ask for an IEP meeting. 

From OSPI:

"Decisions regarding recovery services focus on what the student’s expected progress would have been if the pandemic had not occurred, compared with the student’s current present levels and progress. 
"While progress data should be considered from continuous learning plans and any services temporarily reduced during or since the spring 2020 school facility closures, IEP teams determine the need for recovery services based on expected progress from the student’s pre-COVID IEP. Temporary IEP amendments and impacted services due to the pandemic should not be primary considerations for recovery services."

IMPORTANT: Schools cannot just say, sorry there is no progress report is available. If the IEP team does not have progress data, then families should reach out to the school district and request an evaluation.

OSPI has come across district responses along the lines of: “During remote instruction we have not been able to measure progress.” This is not compliant with the law. OSPI is working with those school districts on corrective action.

Civil rights complaints

In addition to following IDEA, school districts must follow Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA. If families believe their student is being discriminated against, then there is a complaint process to follow. 

There are discrimination dispute resolution information sheets available in 12 languages. 

An example of discrimination might be refusal to make an accommodation for face coverings. Or denial of access to curriculum and activities that are available to students without disabilities.


Communication is uneven at the school level

Based on questions we are fielding from parents and conversations we have had with OSPI and the Office of the Education Ombuds, it appears some local school teams are better informed than others.

OSPI's recovery guidance includes information for IEP teams. You are a member of your student's IEP team. It is dry reading, but we encourage you to review it. 

While the concept of recovery and compensatory services is not new, educators and families have never had to consider these supports at this scale. A lot of this is new for most of us and we can all expect a learning curve.

That said, no rights were suspended because of the pandemic. IDEA, Section 504, and ADA all stand.

You might also be interested in reviewing Washington's State Plan for the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

It identified the following for priorities for students with disabilities:

Analysis of the data demonstrated the follow highest priorities for the remainder of the 2020–21 school year, summer, and the 2021–22 school year related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Inclusionary practices, including the training and implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Assistive Technology (AT), and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) developed to support students with disabilities access and progress in general education curriculum and classrooms, with supplemental specially designed instruction.

  2. Progress Monitoring, data-based decision making, and reviewing educational benefit.

  3. Recovery services, compensatory education, learning acceleration, and effective specially designed instruction.


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Now Recruiting! What You Need to Know About The Inclusion Academy

For parents and allies of children 2 to 5

Image of young boy who uses a wheelchair. Text read: The Inclusion Academy, for parents and allies of young children


Apply today! Our Spring/Summer 2021 Cohort starts May 27

Applications are due May 14

Are you a parent or ally of young children ages 2 to 5 with disabilities or developmental delay?

Do you want to create positive experiences that help all children thrive?

Do you want to better understand disability rights and equity and learn how to be a strong advocate?

Join us as we launch our fourth cohort of The Inclusion Academy. Classes start May 27 and continue Thursdays through August 12.

If you prefer to apply by phone or require interpretation or other support, please contact Bridget: bnickol@arcofkingcounty.org, 206-829-7016.

Below, we share the what’s and why’s of the program.



"They aren't ready for us" is something we hear often. This opportunity is about changing that.

OUR GOAL: Share information you need to support and advocate for young children AND offer space to practice and pursue disability activism. Our focus for the program is inclusive learning and disability equity.

OUR PHILOSOPHY: Disability is a type of diversity, and whether children with disabilities or developmental delay thrive depends on how society responds to and nurtures them. So we're targeting society. All children need to experience belonging and membership.

The Inclusion Academy is grounded in the science of early childhood development and the legal and research basis for inclusive learning. It is a Best Starts for Kids Innovation Fund pilot and a portfolio project of Frontiers of Innovation, the research and development arm of Harvard's Center on the Developing Child.


Washington is bottom four in the nation when it comes to helping preschoolers with and without disabilities learn and play together. This affects their development and, unfortunately, reflects community values and priorities.

Decades of research tells us inclusion helps kids learn, and neuroscience helps us understand why: Developing brains need relationship. Belonging, membership, and participation help brains build the foundation kids need for lifelong well-being.

There is even a strong legal basis for inclusive learning and civil rights protection.

Yet in Washington, preschoolers with disabilities are segregated at about twice the national rate. More so than most any other state, we create separate spaces for children with disabilities, and that is not healthy.

The Inclusion Academy is about changing that. It is about helping people understand what is going on and what is at stake, while also helping them develop strategies and practice skills to build inclusive communities.



Parents (and allies!) of children ages 2 to 5 navigating childcare or preschool, or transitioning into kindergarten.

Enrollment preference will be given to King County residents, but we will welcome people from outside the region if space allows. 

WHEN DO CLASSES MEET? Thursdays, late afternoon or early evening. We will select the time that works for most participants, based on application responses. Most classes will run 2 hours; please set aside 2.5 hours for the first one.



  • May 27: Our why, the developing brain, and what children need to thrive
  • June 3: Defining inclusion
  • June 10: Disability is diversity
  • June 17: How people frame disability (and what that means for barriers)
  • June 24: Practicing advocacy skills 1
  • July 1: Defining high quality early learning and the research basis for inclusion
  • July 8: Children’s rights - The legal basis for inclusion
  • July 15: Exploring early learning options
  • July 22: Advocacy in action – A panel of leaders
  • July 29: Navigating reality 1: The school district
  • August 5: Navigating reality 2: Helpful tools for the school years and beyond
  • August 12: Practicing advocacy skills 2 (and group celebration!)

Once classes end, we support you as you apply your learning through a project. This is where the activism starts!

ADVOCACY SKILLS COVERED: Listening; analysis; communications; vision planning; policy development; data mining; collaboration; and community building. Classes also touch on concepts like behavior as communication, person-centered planning, and universal design.

WHAT TO EXPECT: A group of about 15 people learning together and from each other. We use presentations, small and large group discussion, class activities, and reflection in our classes, and we offer additional resources online. Participants also often share resources with each other. After classes end, projects start – or as we like to think of it, activism happens. We also offer social and group learning events several times a year for people who want to stay connected.

TIME COMMITMENT: Usually six to nine months. The first three months will be spent in weekly classes. You should plan on two to three hours a week from late May through mid-August. Beyond that depends on how much time you want to put into your project.

COST: This course is free, thanks to a grant from King County's Best Starts for Kids. Participants who do community projects get a small stipend to help offset costs.

LOCATION: Classes will be held online, live, using Zoom video conferencing. They will be recorded and posted to a private website, where you can watch later if you miss a class. We share resources and class materials on this site. Class participants can reflect and post on the private site, as well.



DO I NEED TO LIVE IN KING COUNTY? No, but preference will be given to people who live or work in King County.

WILL THERE BE IN-PERSON CLASSES? We are planning for an online experience for the class portion. We hope to host learning or social events later this year where people can meet in-person, if they choose.

DO I HAVE TO ATTEND ALL THE CLASSES? No. But most of the classes rely on participation. If you know now that are going to miss more than two classes, this may not be the right time to take this course.

CAN I MAKE UP A CLASS IF I MISS IT? Yes. We record all Zoom classes and post them to a private website. We also post any presentations and handouts there. But you will miss out on small group discussions and interactive activities.

CAN I APPLY IF MY CHILDREN AREN'T AGE 2-5? Absolutely. Parents with children slightly younger or older will benefit from classes and advocacy skills development. But the focus will be on early development.

DO I HAVE TO BE A PARENT? No! Professionals, other family, and other allies are welcome to apply. Systems change relies on our collective effort, and each person lends important skills, wisdom, and experience!

WILL THIS HELP ME RESOLVE MY SPECIFIC CONCERN FOR MY CHILD? This is not a legal clinic or IEP strategy session. The Arc has a helpline if you need assistance with something specific (ask@arcofkingcounty.org) and offers an IEP Parent Partner program. But completing The Inclusion Academy will help you speak to the importance of inclusion, ground you in key civil rights protections, and help you understand early learning options. You will also develop and practice advocacy skills. It is important to know, though, that The Inclusion Academy is fundamentally about shifting attitudes and practices. This type of systems change requires collective action.

No matter where you are in your child’s journey, you can expect to gain skills, knowledge, and perspective that will benefit you now and in the future.

WHO TEACHES THE COURSE? The Inclusion Academy is a program of The Arc of King County. Staff facilitators include:

  • Bridget Nickol (she/her), early learning initiatives coordinator. Bridget is a sibling of an adult with a developmental disability and has worked in area schools supporting children with disabilities.
  • Eric Warwick (she/her), community advocacy coordinator. Eric has lived experience both as a student receiving special education, and as someone who has worked in Washington schools supporting children with disabilities.
  • Ramona Hattendorf (she/her), director of advocacy. Ramona’s first career was in journalism. She transitioned to civic engagement and public policy, first as a volunteer and parent advocate in her children's schools, about 15 years ago. She has two young adult children, one with a disability and another who experienced developmental delay.


MORE QUESTIONS? Please contact Bridget Nickol, early learning initiatives coordinator at The Arc of King County, bnickol@arcofkingcounty.org, 206-829-7016.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

BIG disappointment for DD advocates

Key developmental disability bill stalls in House Appropriations. Would have gathered data needed to fix funding levels for DDA services


Developmental Disability Administration (DDA) waiver services in Washington state are capped. And every year, state legislators - your representatives - decide how many slots to offer. They do this without a courtesy caseload forecast to inform them about level of need. The budget process they use looks at the small number of people already served, and even then it is limited. For instance, the legislature does not consider what services people want but cannot access, either because they aren't on the right waiver or because they can't find a provider.

Legislators do not consider the equity implications for those never let in, or who spend years waiting. They do not consider the economic impact of their decisions on families and the larger community.

SB 5268 - sponsored by Senators Karen Keiser, John Braun, and Joe Nguyen - is important for fixing this. The bill is titled: Transforming services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by increasing the capabilities of community residential settings and redesigning the long-term nature of intermediate care facilities.

SB 5268 would help the state understand where investment was needed for DDA community supports. It passed the Senate unanimously and sailed through the Housing, Human Services & Veterans Committee in the House. There was strong, bipartisan support.

Then it hit House Appropriations, where it died.

Fourteen of the 33 members on the Appropriations Committee represent parts of King County. So this is disappointing. Our local legislators do not understand the impact their policy choices have on their constituents with I/DD and their families. Or they do understand, but do not prioritize action.

If you care about expanding and stabilizing supports in the community, we encourage you to contact your legislators, especially if they are on the Appropriations Committee, to let them know how disappointed you are that SB 5268/DDA services died, and ask for their support going forward.


SB 5268 is about gathering information that the state needs to plan for and fund DDA services appropriately. 

DDA services are Medicaid long-term services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). There is a federal match with Medicaid, so the more the state invests, the more the federal government invests. Community services are funded through a home- and community-based services (HCBS) waiver. This means people waive the right to receive support in an institution and instead request support in the community.

Currently, we are 39th in the nation in funding for community supports overall for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and 41st when it comes to funding HCBS waiver supports for people with I/DD. Less than 30 percent of people who meet the federal definition for needing DD waiver supports get them in our state. Supports that help individuals develop and maintain essential life skills are funded through the DDA waivers. Underfunding them directly impacts the ability of people to live and participate in their community.

The bill was funded in early versions of the Senate budget proposal, but the associated line items do not appear to be part of current budget discussions. Specific items that would now go unfunded include:

  • Courtesy forecasts of those who are assessed as eligible, and have requested services for, the Individual and Family Services (or IFS), Basic Plus, and Core waivers, and supported living services; and to produce a courtesy forecast of the number of individuals expected to reside in State-Operated Living Alternatives.

  • Funding and staffing to examine and report on a variety of topics, including but not limited to, the need for community respite beds and crisis stabilization services; to study Medicaid rates for contracted community residential providers; to develop uniform quality metrics for residential settings; and to establish a staffing plan to achieve a case management ratio of 1:35. Funding is also sufficient for rental assistance for individuals who face eviction caused by the transfer from subsidized housing to an Intermediate Care Facility.

  • Funding to perform a review of practices in other states and identify options to improve the Department of Social and Health Services practices related to client eligibility, services and managing clients.

Recently, the state crafted a plan to stabilize and grow community supports and rethink the way we use intermediate care facilities (ICFs). These facilities, as well as nursing homes for people with I/DD, are located at the state's four Residential Habilitation Centers. Years ago, people moved into RHCs for long-term stays. Medicaid now views ICFs as short-term facilities for active treatment and Washington state is in the process of adapting.

"Habilitative" services help a person keep, learn, or improve skills and functioning for daily living. This is in contrast to "rehabilitative" services, which help a person keep, get back, or improve skills and functioning for daily living that have been lost or impaired due to injury or illness.

Generally, the habilitative supports available through the DDA (commonly called "community supports" or "DD supports") are not available outside the Medicaid HCBS waivers or through private health insurance. If the state under-funds and doesn't pay for enough slots, people who are otherwise eligible simply lose access to them. Currently, there are about 14,000 people on a No Paid Services list. They are eligible for DDA supports but cannot access them because the state has chosen not to fund or track the number of waivers needed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Do you advocate for students with disabilities?

You might want to pick up the phone

Legislative Hotline: 1.800.562.6000

There is an extra $2.5 billion or so in federal funding available to Washington students, but there is not a clear picture of how the state and local schools will use those funds to support students furthest from justice. As for state funds, there are some smart, targeted investments that both House and Senate need to agree on.

Your insight is needed.

Here is a side by side of House and Senate funding proposals to support students with disabilities.

Please contact your legislators – they need to hear from families about what support students with disabilities need. You can email them, but given the short turnaround, calling might be most effective.

Budget writers are meeting this week to start reconciling the House and Senate proposals.

Some quick talking points

(See further down for background and context)

  • Equity is essential. Continue funding OSPI's Inclusionary Practices Program and increasing access to general education. Support the modest Senate allocation of $12 million.

  • Put money – millions more – into social emotional, trauma-informed, and counseling support for students. It is critical for recovery, resilience, and academic progress. Consider tapping federal recovery funds.

  • Do not lock up American Rescue Plan funds for special education into the Safety Net. Please use the House approach and ensure all eligible IDEA students have ready access to recovery services.

  • Streamline! Thank you for extending transition services for eligible students. This process, though, should be automatic for participating students. The issue is service interruption, not validation. In this situation, requiring IEP team review and approval adds unnecessary expense and delay.

  • Be proactive about access. The House steers millions in federal funds to non-school providers for after-school and wrap-around support. These programs MUST be able and willing to support students with disabilities. Any grant process must spell out how students with disabilities will be accommodated. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973 requires equal access to people with disabilities when federal funding is in play.

  • Fund for whole child success. The House allocation of $760,000 for multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) implementation is a smart, targeted investment to get students what they need, when they need it – whether it be academic, behavior, or social emotional support.

  • Provide a basic education, regardless of setting. Please support the House level of funding to ensure students in institutions have access basic education, including access to special education supports as required. Fund $4.5 million for institutional education, and $1.5 million for justice-involved youth.

Background and context

Social and emotional/trauma/mental health support

All students have had a rough year and schools need to be prepared to support them socially and emotionally.

  • The House funds a small pot of money for social and emotional learning grants; the Senate does not.
  • The House funds also funds a small pot of money for technical assistance for trauma-informed learning; again, the Senate does not.

Good news is there is funding for counselors at high poverty schools in both budgets, though the House allocation is much higher.

TALKING POINT: Relationship, belonging, and membership are essential to brain development and building resiliency. For kids to thrive, they need access to core social and emotional learning. This next year, especially, they need access to counselors and trauma-informed practices. Please direct substantially more funding into social emotional learning, trauma-informed instruction, and access to counselors so our youth can move through and process the stress of the pandemic.


Access to recovery services, specific to special education

For a year now, many students with individualized education programs (IEPs) have not had access to the individualized instruction and related supports they require to meet learning standards, or more specific IEP goals. Most will need recovery services, and some will need compensatory education.

It is critical that schools have ready access to the American Rescue Plan Act funds designated to support these students.

The Senate’s plan puts these funds into the state’s Safety Net – an extremely problematic approach. The Safety Net program provides additional funding to address extraordinary costs associated with students with exceptional needs. Those are big barriers and access to Safety Net funds only comes AFTER schools have spent the money. The Safety Net is a way to partially recover costs for exceptional support needs. It will not provide ready access to the majority who will who need recovery support over the next year.

TALKING POINT: Do not lock up American Rescue Plan funds for special education into the Safety Net. Please use the House approach and ensure students have ready access to support. The need for post-pandemic recovery learning is not limited to a small number of high impact students, and schools do not have the cash to pay first and ask for partial reimbursement later.


Extending eligibility for transition services

All students using special education services in high school should have a transition plan that states what conditions will be met for them to exit school; this includes the opportunity to complete graduation requirements and, for some, attend a transition program after grade 12. The pandemic interrupted transition programs. Both House and Senate set aside $24 million to extend eligibility for students turning 21 during the last 2 years who did not graduate with a regular diploma.

Advocates’ only ask is that this extension be automatic for those eligible and not subject to IEP team negotiation. If their program was interrupted, students should be able to complete it. Requiring IEP team approval creates inequitable barriers and delays. The IEP already states the program is required.

TALKING POINT: Extending transition services for eligible students is great. Thank you! But this should be automatic for students already participating. The issue is service interruption, not validation. In this situation, pulling in the IEP team for review and approval adds unnecessary expense and delay. Please streamline!

Equal access to non-school support

Here is the reality: Too many after-school programs and community-led wrap-around supports are not available to students with disabilities. The organizations don’t design their programs for this demographic. The House wants to send millions in federal recovery funds to non-school entities. This public money is intended to support all students, and students with disabilities must have equal access.

If the House proceeds with this plan, then measures must be put in place to the grant-making process to ensure programs will accommodate students with disabilities. This includes toileting accommodations.

TALKING POINT: Be proactive about access. The House steers millions in federal funds to non-school providers for after-school and wrap-around support. That is fine … but these providers MUST be able and willing to support students with disabilities. Any grant process to private entities must spell out how students with disabilities will be accommodated.

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973 requires equal access to people with disabilities when federal funding is in play.


MTSS: What students need, when they need it

A multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) is an essential component of universal design. It helps schools respond to and support students, focusing on the whole child. It uses prevention and interventions that increase with intensity based on student need. MTSS is an integrated approach that addresses academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs.

Wellness, mental health, and social services – as well as academics - are part of an MTSS approach.

The House budget includes $760,000 to support districts in implementing MTSS. The Senate budget does not.

TALKING POINT: Please fund support for district implementation of MTSS. The House allocation of $760,000 is a smart, targeted investment to get students what they need, when they need it – whether it be academic, behavior, or social emotional support.


Inclusion: At the heart of it all

Membership, belonging, and participation are fundamental to healthy development, learning, and lifelong well-being. Another word for all this is inclusion. In the educational realm, inclusion is intentional, with policies and practices designed to ensure access and promote belonging.

But for many students with disabilities in Washington, segregation is the norm. Washington – more so than most states – segregates out students with disabilities from their non-disabled peers. Even when students with disabilities are not segregated, they may be integrated without support, a practice that pushes youth to the margins.

Two years ago, the legislature and the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction took steps to build inclusionary practices. The Senate invests a modest $12 million to continue OSPI’s Inclusionary Practices Program. The House does not.

TALKING POINT: Membership, belonging, and participation are fundamental to healthy development, learning, and lifelong well-being. Please invest a modest $12 million and continue the Inclusionary Practices Program at OSPI. Washington should not be a leader in disability segregation.


Institutional education

Youth and young adults with disabilities – and especially Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) – are disproportionately removed to institutions or incarcerated, where their access to education can be limited. This can include group homes for youth, stays in intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities, and juvenile rehabilitation centers.

Institutional education is not funded in the same way public schools are. The House budget invests in supports and strategies to ensure youth living in institutions have access to the state’s program of basic education. These include differentiated instruction, education advocates, IEP reviews, data collection, and more.

TALKING POINT: Please support the House level of funding for institutional education to ensure students in institutions have access basic education, including access to special education supports as required.