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PA Special Ed Study: Some Children Left Behind

February 12, 2009

Harrisburg, PA - Many school districts in Pennsylvania are short-changing students with special needs, according to a study recently released by the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania. Some education groups say the solution may rest with the stimulus package being debated in Washington, D.C.

The study reports that more than three-quarters of the school districts in the state are not spending enough to meet the basic needs of these students. Center co-director Len Rieser says scrimping on the tools they need to succeed in life amounts to a lack of opportunity for them.

"If we don't fund that additional help, we're not giving those children the ticket to adulthood that we're trying to give to all other children."

For these children to have the same opportunities as other students it takes more funding, Rieser says, which in many cases is not being provided.

"What children with disabilities need is additional services - sometimes extensive, sometimes not particularly extensive, but they do need additional help."

Rieser says the state has a responsibility to make sure all children are being treated fairly when it comes to the opportunities education provides.

"It's just a matter of facing up to the fact that we have all kinds of kids in this Commonwealth, including kids with disabilities, and it's our job to help all of them."

One solution may be contained in the federal economic stimulus package. Pennsylvania State Education Association president James Testerman calls the study an important reminder of the need to pass a package with funding intact for special education. Both the House and Senate versions included $13 billion in special-education funding.

The full report is available at www.elc-pa.org.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - PA