Special education advocates for D.C.’s public school children say they are “cautiously optimistic” that more money proposed in the budget for students will disabilities will translate into better care.
Judith Sandalow with Children’s Law Center in D.C. says the overall budget for children with special needs is smaller because of lower enrollment projections.
But the money available for each child is expected to increase from between $80 dollars to $550 dollars, depending on the child's needs. Sandalow says these additional funds will be spent increasing the number of special education teachers, more professional development and hiring paraprofessionals including occupational therapists.
"For the first time, to my knowledge, the D.C. public schools aiming to move students up more than one grade level in a year," she says.
Sandalow says other areas DCPS should invest in include more money to evaluate children with special needs who are younger than 5 years old and to help older students with disabilities prepare for vocational and independent living. Just 18 percent of DCPS students in special education can read at grade level and 21 percent can do math.