Students with Disabilities Being Failed by our Education System

The Education Oversight Committee met on Tuesday to hear a presentation on the status of students with disabilities in our public education system. During the 2007 long session the general assembly passed House Bill 17 (Session Law 207-295) which required the Department of Public Instruction to identify various models being utilized to deliver education and other services at the high school level to children with disabilities.
The presentation on Tuesday was a direct result of this law, and the numbers and recommendations left more questions than answers. Let’s start with the numbers.

In regards to student performance, “fewer than 42% of students with disabilities scored Level III or above on the 2006-2007 End-of-Course Tests in core academics.” Looking at service delivery models as dictated by House Bill 17, we learned that in 2006-2007 48,387 students with disabilities were enrolled in grades 9-12. Of those students, 51.4% spent 80% of their day in general education, 22.4% spent 40-79% of their day in general education (resource setting), 21.9% spent 39% or less of their day in general education (separate setting) and 4.3% were in a separate school or homebound educational setting.

The bombshell of the day came when the presentation turned to student outcomes. 6 LEAs (Local Education Agency) had over 80% of students with disabilities exit with a diploma. 24 LEAs had 75% of students with disabilities exit school with either a diploma, a graduation certificate or a certificate of achievement. However, how that percentage broke down among those categories was never specified. Then there were the 4 LEAs that had 100% of students with disabilities exit school as dropouts.

You read that correctly. In 2006-2007, 4 LEAs reported that 100% of the students with disabilities exiting school were dropouts. The presentation did not discuss which LEAs are in this last group or how many students are represented by this abysmal percentage. To me it does not matter if it is one student or 20 students. It does not matter if it is a small LEA or a large LEA. The fact that in 2006-2007 in these 4 LEAs not a single student with a disability exited with a diploma, or a certificate of achievement, or a certificate of attendance but simply dropped out is disgraceful.

We have got to stop throwing away our future. We need to invest in an equitable academic opportunity for youth with disabilities. As ruled in the Leandro vs. North Carolina, the North Carolina constitution mandates that all of our citizens have a right to a sound, basic education. All includes students with disabilities.

4 Comments

  1. Dallas Woodhouse

    March 13, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Rep. Skip Stam has a great bill that would allow parents of these children to use tax credits to attend private schools. That is a good idea to help these children, a little school choice for the children

  2. Jerimee

    March 13, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks Dallas, no doubt Rep. Skip Stam has a great bill that will help ensure that wealthy children receive a better education than middle and low income children. I know that you and Stam have been big proponents of cutting public education opportunities.

    Julia, thanks for this post. In general, how supportive would you say Skip Stam is of issues that affect North Carolinians with disabilities?

  3. Julia Leggett

    March 14, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Dallas,
    Thanks for the response. Representative Stam and I have spoken in great detail regarding this bill. The bill is also co sponsored by Representative Rick Glazier. It is interesting legislation that has been done in other states. For many families that are low to middle income a private school option is out of reach. I am currently reading about a program in Pennsylvania that utilizes corporate tax credits to support students with disabilities in both private and public educational settings.

    Our state and nation must work to strengthen our public education system. Our state constitution guarantees a right to that education. For students with disabilities public school is often the only choice. We have not been making strong financial investments in their education. The result of continuing to fail these children will be increased Medicaid costs and increased Social Security costs. We need more Special Education teachers. More importantly, we need to have all future teachers in our University systems take core classes in recognizing a child with a disability in a mainstream enviornment and adapting their courses to meet that childs needs.

  4. Julia Leggett

    March 14, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Jerimee,
    Thanks for your response. You asked, “In general, how supportive would you say Skip Stam is of issues that affect North Carolinians with disabilities?”

    I met Representative Stam early in my first year of lobbying. Representative Stam supported the American Sign Language Bill and the Disability History and Awareness Legislation. These were my first two bills last session.

    A quick look of his voting record during the last session shows that he voted yes for HB 14 Homebound Instruction for Disabled Students which insured that these students would receive appropriate education while homebound. He voted yes to permit short term suspended students to take their textbooks home with then during their suspension. He voted yes for HB 17 Study Services for Students with Disabilities, this bill created the numbers that my post referred to. He also voted yes to Establish the High Risk Insurance Pool and for Mental Health Equitable Coverage.

    On a personal note, when I experienced issues with accessibility in the General Assembly, as leader of the minority party Representative Stam defended my right to sit with my peers in the gallery and he pushed to ensure that in case of an emergency there was a strong plan to evacuate people with mobility disabilities from the building.

    Many years ago, Representative Stam was one of the lawyers who fought to protect the rights of children with cognitive disabilities during the Thomas S cases.

    I believe his tax credit bill is an attempt to deal with the crisis in educational services for students with disabilities in our school system.

    Overall, I would say Representative Stam has worked on issue that show his concern for students and people with disabilities in our state.