Position of the Disability Community:
All students have the right to a public education, including students with disabilities. This must be provided with the appropriate supports, including assistive technology, and students with disabilities must be offered the same opportunities to succeed and pursue higher education alongside their non-disabled peers.
If public officials want the disability vote:
Support implementation and oversight of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Since the enactment of IDEA, high school graduation rates for people with disabilities have increased from less than 30% in the mid-1990s to 70% two decades later. Dropout rates have also declined. Similarly, enrollment in college has doubled for students with disabilities. Nevertheless, local school districts struggle to serve students with disabilities, and those seeking higher education continue to face enormous barriers to success.
Support improving high school and college graduation rates of students with disabilities.
Students with disabilities lag behind non-disabled peers in graduation rates in high school and college. Additional supports and services are needed to increase graduation rates, and to ensure individuals are prepared for the 21st century workforce. High schools need integrated instruction by certified and effective teachers, appropriate assessments, and positive behavioral supports. Colleges and universities need to fund disability service offices to ensure the success of students of disabilities.
Support the U.S. Department of Education improving oversight of charter schools.
A 2012 Government Accountability Office report of charter schools found discrimination against children with disabilities by enrolling less students with disabilities and not having not adequate resources to meet the needs of the students with disabilities. Action is needed to ensure these schools are fulfilling their obligations to properly educate children with disabilities under the ADA, IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Oppose the seclusion and restraint of students with disabilities and support federal legislation to reduce the use of seclusion and restraints.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education issued a guidance letter to school districts which noted that the use of seclusion and restraint can violate federal laws including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Oversight must be improved to ensure the safety of students with disabilities. The use of restraint and seclusion is a pervasive, nationwide problem. Federal legislation is necessary to provide children in all states equal protection from these dangerous techniques, and create a cultural shift toward preventive, positive behavior intervention strategies that create positive school culture and climate.
Oppose the school to prison pipeline for students with disabilities.
Schools must utilize positive behavior interventions and supports and must find alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, which unfairly targets students with disabilities and other disadvantaged children. The U.S. Department of Education must stop delaying its data collection of significant disproportionality in discipline of students with disabilities with regard to race and ethnicity. Further delay puts students at risk, and data must be collected to address systemic barriers to the success of these children. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education must keep in place its 2014 guidance on school discipline to create safe, supportive, and welcoming environments for all students.
Support ongoing enforcement of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) principles are the cornerstones for the education of students with disabilities. Monitoring and oversight of schools are necessary to ensure students with disabilities are accessing their rights under FAPE and LRE. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including schools. Section 504 requires a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability.
Support the reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA).
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) expands opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to have access to postsecondary education by improving student financial assistance, accessibility, teacher quality, and universal design for learning.
Support ongoing federal and state funding of assistive technology.
Technology is an essential part of classroom learning, social experience, and daily life. Many people with disabilities need technology to fully access academic curriculum and to fully participate alongside their peers. Often these needs are not met due to a lack of funding or professional expertise. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires electronic and information technology be made accessible wherever federal funds are used. Since many schools use federal funds, they must comply with Section 508.
Support education models that are integrated and inclusive.
Evidence gathered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education shows that students have higher levels of achievement in inclusive schools. Educating children with disabilities alongside their peers – or providing opportunities for them to regularly interact if they are attending school-based programs geared towards students with disabilities – builds understanding, empathy, and the skills children need to lead fulfilling lives and contribute to their communities.
Support increased accessibility and inclusion of students with disabilities in the nation’s colleges and universities.
While there has been improvement in the physical accessibility of campuses, more needs to be done to ensure students with disabilities can fully engage in the curriculum and access the facilities. All postsecondary institutions in the U.S. are required by law to be fully accessible to students with disabilities. Under the Rehabilitation Act, any colleges or universities that receive federal funding must not exclude or discriminate against anyone on the basis of disability. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act makes discrimination illegal in publicly funded universities, and community colleges, and Title III covers privately funded schools.
Support accountability for protecting the rights of students with disabilities with implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that states improve student performance, prepare all students for college and careers, and make advances in equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students. ESSA recognizes that our education system must ensure that all children have access to a high-quality standards-based education and that schools provide services and supports to disadvantaged students who are not making progress in school, including students with disabilities.
Additional Information and Resources:
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – U.S. Department of Education
- Children and Youth With Disabilities – National Center for Education Statistics
- Supporting Higher Education for People with Disabilities – National Conference of State Legislatures
- How Can ESSA Help Students With Disabilities? – American Institutes for Research
- School to Prison Pipeline – Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
- Pipeline to Prison: Special education too often leads to jail for thousands of American children – The Hechinger Report
- NCIL Policy on Youth and Education: Overview – National Council on Independent Living
- Education – The Arc
- Principles and Recommendations for the Higher Education Act – Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
- Disability Provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act – Association of University Centers on Disabilities
- Perkins Career and Technical Education Act Reauthorization Recommendations – Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
- School Discipline Guidance and Students’ Civil Rights – The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Education section of the 2018 REV UP Issues Guide was published on June 25, 2018 and last updated on June 25, 2018. AAPD will do it’s best to keep this guide up-to-date as Executive and Legislative changes happen; however, we recommend double-checking Congress.gov, WhiteHouse.gov, or Google for the latest updates.