Budget Cuts for Children With Special Needs

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Budget Cuts for Children With Special Needs

    The education sequester has put the needs of children with     disabilities, especially those from low-income families, on the     chopping block in recent months. The simple fact for special needs     students is this: these kids have a great need for resources and     support in their educational trajectories, even greater than the     needs of most children in school.

    This is because kids with special needs require extra help in a lot     of ways – and, under the Individuals With Disabilities Education     Act, they are entitled to it. But if the budget cuts go through,     then kids with special needs will lose a lot of their funding and     support. They may be subjected to integration into bigger classes     with fewer support staff. This means that the kids who need the most     individualized care and attention in school will definitely not be     getting it.

    When funding disappears at a federal or state level, it is up to     individual schools and school districts to figure out where to go     from there. One option is the aforementioned condensation of special     needs classrooms: more kids in a room, fewer teachers to help them     out. This also means that some paraprofessional aides, who are often     these students’ best advocates and the only ones who interact with     them daily on an individual level, will be laid off. Other schools     will opt to spend less money on assistive technology, such as     text-to-speech programs and other learning tools that help children     with special needs develop cognitively.

    Of course, the education sequester is also going to affect general     education. But the students who have the highest needs, those who     are low income and have disabilities, will bear the biggest burden.     The schools that are suffering the most financially are already in     high-poverty areas and, even with the budget cuts, are still     required to meet the needs of every child with special needs. For     some schools, this will become an impossible feat, but as the     charter school movement and education reform become more widespread,     these schools may lose more than just their funding.

    Schools that do not perform up to the standards set by high-stakes     standardized testing are, too, relegated to the chopping block and     ultimately replaced or overtaken by charter schools, which receive     more funding. Unfortunately, while charter schools are required to     be equipped to take care of special needs students, they often do     not do so adequately. Instead of providing support for students with     disabilities, these students are suspended or asked to leave.

    For more information on how the education sequester is affecting     students from low-income backgrounds and children with special     needs, see this article     from The Atlantic, and this piece     from the National Priorities Project. For more     information on how special needs students are doing in the charter     school system, see this New     York Daily News article.