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Policy Post – Making Progress and Facing Hard Times

May 4, 2010

Arnie Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, spoke with the Council for Exceptional Children two weeks ago. It’s a great summation of the past 20 years in Special Education and lays out some of the goals the President and Congress are working toward.

In looking at the past and the effect that IDEA has had, Duncan provides some facts:

  • “In 2007, nearly 60 percent of students with disabilities graduated high school with a regular diploma, compared to 32 percent twenty years earlier”
  • “A third of students with disabilities were enrolled in postsecondary education – up from just one in seven two decades ago”
  • “57 percent of students with disabilities spend at least 80 percent of their day within the regular school environment”
  • “95 percent of students with disabilities attend a neighborhood school”

These are some great measures of progress, but the work doesn’t end, especially now. The funding gaps remain and teachers in special education in school districts and states across the country are facing budget cuts that will either eliminate their job or reduce the resources available to them.  From Los Angeles to Grand Rapids to Minneapolis to Kansas City decisions are being made which could threaten or destabilize programs in place.

Secretary Duncan spoke to this issue briefly, mentioning the Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010 which the NEA just produced a one-page analysis of detailing how the money would be divided state by state. It would similar to a federal Race to the Top Grant but not competitive. This could be a one year stop gap, enabling more room to breathe as states and school districts navigate the economy. Regardless, Courts Kids will strive to be there for special needs educators wherever it can.

Here is the full speech:

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