OLYMPIA – Students with disabilities and exceptional needs continue to lack equitable access to special education programs and funding in Washington state. Seeing an “unconscionable” failure to meet the state’s paramount duty to fund basic education for students with disabilities, State Representative Gerry Pollet, D-North Seattle, introduced House Bill 1436, which the House passed today.
School districts reported that they are spending over $500 million from local school levies this coming year on services for students who have been evaluated to have disabilities and are entitled to services under federal and state laws (referred to as “Individual Education Plans”, or IEPs).
Under HB 1436, as adopted today, and in the new state budget, the Legislature will add $417 million in new support for special education during this biennium and nearly a billion dollars over four years. It increases how much special education funding school districts receive per student up to the new cap, which is increased from 13.5% to 15%.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is required to review data to ensure that there is not a disproportionate identification or under-identification of specific groups of students, and to develop an allocation and cost accounting methodology to ensure equitable funding for special education programs.
The legislation also begins an effort to have the Office of Education Ombuds provide special education ombuds to assist parents, as advocated for by Senate Education Chair Lisa Wellman.
“Washington has a constitutional obligation to fund every child’s education. Disability is not a choice,” said Rep. Pollet. “Today, we move one step closer to fully supporting all students in our state with a high-quality public education. Looking to the future, more work remains. I am hopeful that the legislature will support future proposals to completely remove this cap because of the disproportional impact on students in our state.”
HB 1436 now heads to the Governor’s desk.