You might want to pick up the phone
Legislative Hotline: 1.800.562.6000
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.
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.