Resources: Students with Disabilities

Students with Disabilities

Fair School Funding

  • Education Law Center Staff Attorney David Lapp’s testimony to the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission on November 18, 2014, entitled “Time for a Rational Fix to the Special Education Tuition in Pennsylvania Charter Schools.”

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s December 11, 2014 testimony to the School District of Philadelphia examines the legislative intent of Pennsylvania’s charter school law and how the District should view the latest round of charter school applications.

    “There is tremendous promise in the theory of independently-operated public schools that are accountable for equitably serving all kinds of students, achieve superior results, and ultimately increase quality educational options in the larger system of public education. Unfortunately, we do not have such a system in Philadelphia.

    Until we do, the district is fully within its legal right to restrict charter school growth. Indeed, in order to comply with the legislative intent of the charter school law and with our state constitutional mandate for a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” the district is legally compelled to restrict charter growth.”

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  • House Bill 2138 and Senate Bill 1316 are companion bills that represent an important first step toward fixing the state’s broken system for special education funding and accountability.

    Bills HB 2138 and SB 1316 present a formula for distributing new special education dollars based on the work of the General Assembly’s Special Education Funding Commission. The two bills use the cost data from the Commission to create three cost categories for students with disabilities and use accurate enrollment data to determine the number of students in each of those categories — finally aligning resources with the actual cost of serving children with disabilities.

     

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s March 7, 2014 testimony at the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s hearing highlights significant demographic disparities when comparing brick-and-mortar charter schools as a whole in Philadelphia to the School District of Philadelphia schools.

    (more…)

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  • The Special Education Funding Commission held public hearings throughout the state in 2013, receiving testimony from dozens of witnesses. Students, parents, educators, and national experts uniformly emphasized the long-term impact of the state funding system on the ability of schools to meet the needs of children with disabilities.

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  • The graphs in this analysis were created by the Education Law Center using publicly reported data on public school enrollment demographics. We focused on Pennsylvania’s most heavily-chartered communities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chester-Upland, York City, and Erie City — and on students receiving special education services.

    The data demonstrates that, while a number of individual charter schools equitably serve all students, the charter school sector taken as a whole generally underserves these vulnerable student populations. The result is that, with some notable exceptions, these students are often more heavily concentrated in the authorizing school district of residence.

     

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  • Faced with a budget shortfall of more than $700 million, the School District of Philadelphia laid off 47 nurses effective December 31, 2011. Subsequent layoffs and the retirement of 25 additional nurses resulted in a net loss of more than 100 school nurses in the 2011-2012 school year.

    This 2013 report examines the impact of those losses on student health, safety, and learning.

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  • The Law Center believes that important reforms are needed for Pennsylvania’s system of charter schools. However, it is important to note that the legislative process for charter school reform has headed down the wrong path.

    (The following analysis highlights proposed changes to the law. These changes were not adopted in 2012 or 2013, but many of them are contained in current charter law proposals before the legislature.)

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  • Charter schools are public schools and must follow laws that protect the rights of public school students. Ensuring that charter schools, as well as traditional public schools, provide quality education to all students is an important part of ELC’s mission.

    The following principles, published in 2012, are an outgrowth of ELC’s work with and on behalf of thousands of families throughout Pennsylvania.

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  • Strong public schools are important for creating a successful future for both individuals and whole communities. Formula proposals or state budgets affecting education funding should be evaluated based on the following ten criteria. Any proposal or budget that fails to meet these criteria will not serve the interests of all students, especially disadvantaged students, and should not be adopted.

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  • There are many voices and various ideas, but crucial leadership and commitment are sorely lacking on the key issues facing the future of the 3,300 public schools that serve 1.8 million children in the Commonwealth. And the ideas for reform getting the most attention often ignore the basic changes needed to truly improve teaching and learning at the classroom level, especially for struggling students and schools.

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  • The 2009 report, Costing Out the Resources Needed to Meet Pennsylvania’s Education Goals for Students with Disabilities, identifies and evaluates Special Education solutions based on Pennsylvania’s 2007 Education Cost Study and examines why it is critically important for the state to implement a funding system for students with disabilities.

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Students with Disabilities

Equal Access

  • ELC was invited to provide testimony in October 2018 regarding the high school selection process to the Student Achievement and Supports Committee of the Board of Education for the School District of Philadelphia. Staff Attorney Kristina Moon provided written and oral testimony describing concerns from families and advocates about the district’s failure to implement the LeGare consent decree that requires the district provide equal opportunity for students with disabilities and English Learners to attend special admission high schools. ELC also called upon the Board to consider changes to the selective admission criteria that could allow students from neighborhood schools with less resources a more equitable chance to attend selective high schools.  Additionally, ELC urged the Board to consider whether charter schools are equitably serving all students when reviewing applications for renewal or expansion. Read the full testimony here:

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  • On August 31, 2017, ELC submitted comments in response to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s request for input to its proposed Consolidated State Plan (“State Plan” or “Plan”) pursuant to Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”), the nation’s major education law.  Highlighting Pennsylvania’s historic opportunity to create a new path to advance educational equity and close the achievement gap for at-risk students, ELC’s comments underscore the need for rigorous, uniform goals and standards applicable to all students, the development of more detailed measures and strategies to determine when and how to intervene to support low-performing schools, the need to address school climate issues and further refine chronic absenteeism as a metric, the need for greater state oversight to implement specific provisions of ESSA, and advance the progress of educationally at-risk students, particularly students in foster care, those experiencing homelessness, students with disabilities, English learners (“ELs”), and youth in and exiting the juvenile justice system.

    Summany here

    Full text of ELC’s Comments here.

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  • On July 6, 2017, ELC Staff Attorney Maura McInerney provided testimony to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission opposing a proposed special education plan that would have substantially increased the provision of special education services in segregated settings.  After substantial opposition from advocates for students with disabilities, the Commission adopted a scaled-down version of its plan.

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  • ELC co-signed this letter to Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera in response to the denial of students’ right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the School District of Philadelphia in June, 2017.

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  • This letter, which was sent to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission on June 13, was written on behalf of the Philadelphia Coalition for Special Education Advocates and other organizations to oppose “Resolution IU7: Alternative Special Education Program for students with disabilities in grades K through 12” in the Philadelphia School District.

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  • Published in February 2017, this analysis explains how Pennsylvania’s charter schools serve disproportionately fewer of the state’s vulnerable students than traditional public schools, too often segregating students by type of disability. Federal and state laws are clear that charter schools must provide quality public options for all pupils. With respect to students eligible for special education under Pennsylvania law and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the data demonstrates that, even where charter schools are serving proportionate numbers of students with disabilities in line with their share of the overall student population, the charter sector by and large does not educate students with disabilities who require higher cost aids and services—e.g. students with intellectual disabilities, serious emotional disturbance, and multiple disabilities. Instead, the charter sector serves students with disabilities who require lower cost aids and services, such as speech and language impairment and specific learning disabilities.

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  • This toolkit, released in October 2016, is designed to help Pennsylvania youth with disabilities who are in the foster care or juvenile justice system to prepare for Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. Although this toolkit is aimed at youth in foster care or the juvenile justice system, who often lack engaged adults to advocate for them at IEP meetings, it can be used by any teenager receiving special education. The toolkit was collaboratively produced by Education Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, and Disability Rights Pennsylvania.

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  • Education Law Center Staff Attorney David Lapp’s testimony to the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission on November 18, 2014, entitled “Time for a Rational Fix to the Special Education Tuition in Pennsylvania Charter Schools.”

    Download PDF

  • ELC Attorney Leigh Loman provided this testimony to the National Council on Disability (NCD) on May 4-5 at their national meeting in Pittsburgh, PA. NCD is an independent federal agency responsible for advising the President, Congress and other federal agencies on issues affecting the lives of people with disabilities.

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s December 11, 2014 testimony to the School District of Philadelphia examines the legislative intent of Pennsylvania’s charter school law and how the District should view the latest round of charter school applications.

    “There is tremendous promise in the theory of independently-operated public schools that are accountable for equitably serving all kinds of students, achieve superior results, and ultimately increase quality educational options in the larger system of public education. Unfortunately, we do not have such a system in Philadelphia.

    Until we do, the district is fully within its legal right to restrict charter school growth. Indeed, in order to comply with the legislative intent of the charter school law and with our state constitutional mandate for a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” the district is legally compelled to restrict charter growth.”

    Download PDF

  • The Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center have developed a fact sheet to explain important educational decision maker rules, including Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Procedural Rules (Rules 1147 and 147) requiring judges to appoint an “Educational Decision Maker” for children who have no parent or guardian to make education decisions for them, or when a court concludes that appointing an EDM is in the best interest of a child.

    In addition, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts have a duty to appoint a “surrogate parent” for children with special education needs under specific circumstances.

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  • This guide provides clearly explained legal rules for special education and early intervention programs in Pennsylvania for children from ages three to 21. 

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s March 7, 2014 testimony at the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s hearing highlights significant demographic disparities when comparing brick-and-mortar charter schools as a whole in Philadelphia to the School District of Philadelphia schools.

    (more…)

    Download PDF

  • The graphs in this analysis were created by the Education Law Center using publicly reported data on public school enrollment demographics. We focused on Pennsylvania’s most heavily-chartered communities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chester-Upland, York City, and Erie City — and on students receiving special education services.

    The data demonstrates that, while a number of individual charter schools equitably serve all students, the charter school sector taken as a whole generally underserves these vulnerable student populations. The result is that, with some notable exceptions, these students are often more heavily concentrated in the authorizing school district of residence.

     

    Download PDF

  • A 2013 training developed by the Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center in order to assist local education agencies in their appointment of surrogate parents.

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  • La guía es un recurso rápido y fácil a los programas integrales de aprendizaje para la primera infancia en Pennsylvania para padres de niños con retrasos de desarollo o discapacidades. Describe ocho programas diferentes de aprendizaje temprano, incluso Early Head Start y Head Start, Infant and Toddler y Preschool Early Intervention, y Pre-K Counts, y proporciona información para padres sobre desarrollo infantil y cómo indentificar programas de aprendizaje temprano con calidad.

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  • The Law Center believes that important reforms are needed for Pennsylvania’s system of charter schools. However, it is important to note that the legislative process for charter school reform has headed down the wrong path.

    (The following analysis highlights proposed changes to the law. These changes were not adopted in 2012 or 2013, but many of them are contained in current charter law proposals before the legislature.)

    Download PDF

  • Charter schools are public schools and must follow laws that protect the rights of public school students. Ensuring that charter schools, as well as traditional public schools, provide quality education to all students is an important part of ELC’s mission.

    The following principles, published in 2012, are an outgrowth of ELC’s work with and on behalf of thousands of families throughout Pennsylvania.

    Download PDF

  • The Education Law Center is pleased to announce the publication of the second edition of A Family Guide to Inclusive Early Childhood Learning in Pennsylvania. This project has been supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council.

    This guide is designed to be a quick and easy resource to inclusive early childhood learning programs in Pennsylvania for parents of children with developmental delays or disabilities.

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Students with Disabilities

School to Prison Pipeline

  • The Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center have developed a fact sheet to explain important educational decision maker rules, including Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Procedural Rules (Rules 1147 and 147) requiring judges to appoint an “Educational Decision Maker” for children who have no parent or guardian to make education decisions for them, or when a court concludes that appointing an EDM is in the best interest of a child.

    In addition, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts have a duty to appoint a “surrogate parent” for children with special education needs under specific circumstances.

    Download PDF

  • The following information guide for parents and guardians provides important information if the School District of Philadelphia wants to transfer a child to an “alternative education program” (such as Camelot or Phase 4) because of a disciplinary incident.

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