Dear 2016 Presidential Candidates- What about disabilities and special education?
About 1 in 5 American adults have a disability. In 2013, 6.4 million or about 13 percent of all public school students received special education services. You would think with those numbers that the presidential candidates would be spending some time focusing on the issues that affect these groups. But, that is not the case.
The organization RespectAbility provided a questionnaire to all the presidential candidates. There were 16 questions on the form. Since the initial release of the questionnaire prior to the Iowa caucuses, Governor John Kasich, Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Chris Christie (as of Feb. 10 he is no longer in the race), Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and Senator Bernie Sanders have responded to the wide-ranging 16-item questionnaire. Notice front runners, Trump, Cruz, and Rubio have not.
The questionnaire covers the following issues: Barriers to employment, health care, affordable housing, medical marijuana, and federal benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The question that comes closest to dealing with special education is the one that reads; “Many people who are born with disabilities, especially minorities with learning and mental health differences, are not diagnosed and/or their disability issues go unaddressed. This leads to school dropouts and a ‘school to prison pipeline.’ Do you have a plan to enable students with disabilities to get the services they need to succeed in school and life?”
Parents of students with disabilities should let their voices be heard and get answers to questions that many in the disability community find important to be addressed. Below are five questions that all the candidates should be asked.
- In 1975 when IDEA was first proposed Congress said it would pay 40 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure for students with disabilities. However the federal contribution to special education cost has never exceeded 18.5 percent. What will you do to see that more than 18.5 percent is covered with federal dollars and relieve some of the burden off the localities?
- If the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is reauthorized soon, what program will be a priority for funding?
- What rules would you support the Secretary of Education in using to incentivize state leaders to strengthen special education services for K-12?
- What will you do to support better research to develop proven teacher-training methods or developing tools for teachers to be more effective in the classroom?
- In 2013, 81 percent of high school students graduated with a regular diploma but only 62 percent of students with disabilities graduated. What can be done at the federal level to increase the graduation rate of students with disabilities and make sure that they are not left behind due to common core standards?
Be a voice for your child and these students. Find an opportunity to ask these questions. If you don’t who will?