D.C. to roll out improved special education laws

The District of Columbia Council has moved forward with three bills that will revamp special education in the city. The legislation was approved on Tuesday after a year of debate, public hearings and adjustments. The bills will work together to provide more information for parents of special needs students and to speed up the process of receiving services.

Most significantly, the legislation will reduce the amount of maximum time between a referral and when an evaluation must take place from 120 days to 60 days. The 120-day mandate is the longest in the nation.

Early intervention programs will also receive extra support and resources, and the transition to adulthood classes will begin at the age of 14 instead of the previous 16. Parents will also receive more rights as a result of the bills, with the ability to be allowed to observe current or future classrooms of their children.

Charter schools will also be encouraged to develop special-needs programs with a new preference in enrollment lotteries for students that a have a disability that their school specializes in addressing.

In D.C., over 13,00 students are classified as having disabilities that impact their studies, and only one in five are proficient in reading (only one in four are proficient in math). These bills will be rolled out over the course of three years in order to give schools the chance to adjust to the new standards.

I believe these bills to be comprehensive and exactly what D.C. needs to better address the needs of its students. I’d like to see similar initiatives rolled out in other areas where special-needs students are not receiving the proper services.

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