May 20, 2021
U.S. House Subcommittee for Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education
2176 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Re: May 6, 2021 Hearing on Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Students with Disabilities
First, we would like to thank you for taking the time to listen and learn about the struggles families of children with disabilities have endured over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate Chairman Sablan’s opening statement when he specifically addressed the pre-existing inequities in our educational system for students with disabilities: “Unfortunately, even before the pandemic, far too many students with disabilities do not receive the quality education guaranteed by law.”
As an organization that advocates for families of children with disabilities, we would like to express our continued support for schools in reopening, as well as share our thoughts on how federal funding should be used in our state and others. We have seen an ever-growing backlog in initial evaluations and three-year reviews in districts across our state, as well as a need for compensatory services in areas such as social work, speech, and physical therapy as many districts reduced service times or simply did not provide them while school buildings were closed. These are the issues that have been at the front of our minds throughout the school year as the pandemic continued to impact our students.
We would like to see the influx of funds states are to be receiving used to support district efforts to get in compliance with evaluations, and to provide compensatory services for those who have regressed due to the reduction or elimination of their specialized services. In addition to this, we recognize that these new funds will not be renewed so states will need to be strategic in how they are used in order to ensure they do not create new, and therefore, unsustainable programs. With this in mind, we believe using funding to pay staff for the purposes of catching up with evaluations and recoupment of lost service time makes sense as one area to be addressed.
Other areas we feel need to be addressed and that offer the potential to make a large impact in our students’ education are:
- Social/emotional learning
- Recovery services
- Access to technology to include assistive technology
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
- Teacher/staff training in evidence-based methods and practices necessary to support students in the above areas.
cc: Hon. Andy Levin, U.S. House Representative (9th district)
Hon. Gretchen Whitmer, Governor
Michael F. Rice, Ph.D., MDE State Superintendent
Scott Koenigsknecht, Ph.D., MDE Deputy Superintendent
Teri Rink, Ed.S., MDE OSE Director