Call to Action
Districts and Charters Should Work with Their School Communities to Develop Plans to Invest New Special Education Funding
Phoenix, Sept. 21, 2022 — After years of underfunding Arizona’s public education system now has a significant infusion of money to invest in educating students with special needs.
The co-founders of EPIC Disability Advocacy are grateful for the $200 million boost in special education funding allocated to Arizona’s public education system over the past two years after more than a decade without adjusting funding based on actual expenses incurred by schools. As parents and professionals of children with disabilities we know that students with disabilities are capable. We also know that to achieve their potential, our kids need specialized assistance and environments in which they can learn.
The unemployment rate among Arizona youth with disabilities aged 16 to 24 years speaks to this issue – in 2019 the rate was 26%, more than double the rate for youth without a disability.
With this new infusion of funds, EPIC Disability Advocacy is calling on district and charter schools throughout Arizona to engage with their staff, students, families, and community stakeholders to determine how to best invest this new funding to meet the needs of their special education students. Such investments can have real impacts on educational achievement as well as post-secondary outcomes for employment, workforce development, and higher education.
We urge schools to seek input from their communities to determine how to best invest the additional special education funding they are now receiving. The following are some ideas regarding how funds could be used to improve special education services for students:
- Reducing ratios of students to:
- Special education teachers in self contained, resource and general education environments.
- Therapists such as speech, occupational, physical, and psychological.
- Training/employment of literacy coaches to provide specialized interventions for students with dyslexia and other reading challenges.
- District or charter-wide initiatives to modify curriculum to reduce burdens on teachers while ensuring special education students have the opportunity to participate in and access curricula in a methodical and consistent manner.
- Training for teachers and instructional assistants to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to appropriately support students with disabilities in the most inclusive environment and manner possible.
- Providing assistive technology and apps to support special education staff and students.
- Ensuring competitive pay and retention bonuses for special education teachers and instructional assistants to ensure sufficient staffing and to prevent turnover.
- Prioritizing the development of transition plans for all special education students beginning as early as possible so that IEP goals can reflect the building blocks necessary to prepare special education students for employment, workforce development, or higher education upon completing high school.
More than 145,000 students with disabilities attend Arizona’s K-12 public schools. While their needs vary greatly, each has the right to specialized education to meet their needs similar to their non-disabled peers.
District and charter schools are not legally obligated to spend special education funding in particular ways. Regardless, we encourage district and charter schools to be intentional in the allocation of this funding to ensure the greatest impact on students with disabilities. Parents, we encourage you to ask your child’s school how they will spend these additional funds to maximize the benefit for special education students.
Amanda Steele, President
EPIC Disability Advocacy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose vision is that all persons with disabilities will have access to the resources, programs, and services needed to reach their full potential.