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.