Simultaneous crises of a pandemic and recession are further straining a special education system that has long struggled to effectively serve students with disabilities. Chronic shortfalls in federal funding have burdened local education agencies and families, and — in the most extreme cases — denied these children access to quality education. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), today, more than 7 million children, or 14 percent of public school students, are entitled to special services and accommodations to help them learn. But in the legislation’s almost 50-year history, the federal government has never fulfilled its promise to pay 40 percent of the average cost of educating students with disabilities.

Special education teachers, meanwhile, tend to be among the least-experienced educators, and states often have trouble filling those positions. In Vaughn’s state of Michigan, over 40 percent of teacher vacancies last year were in special education, according to a Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators survey with responses from roughly half the state’s school districts.

The consequences are evident in the data: Graduation rates for young people with disabilities often fall far below those of other students, and without the right support, children in special education are also much more likely to repeat grades and twice as likely to be suspended.

Read the full article about reimagining students with disabilities by Cayla Bamberger at The Hechinger Report.