Special Needs Program Enhancement
The law and moral obligation is clear: students with disabilities have a fundamental right to equal opportunities in education. Although sometimes it may look a little “different,” these children have the same desire and passion for education as other students. But sometimes, they need more help.
It is widely known in the United States that if you have a special needs child, public schools have traditionally had some of the best services and programs available. However, the significant teacher and staff shortage that is being experienced across the country is having a larger impact on our special needs students than the general population. We have a huge shortage of special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and other support staff. This shortage is impeding districts from providing the agreed-upon services, being proactive in identifying needs and gaps in the learning, and delivering the education that these children deserve. To be clear: this is not a DVUSD or Arizona only problem, and it is not caused by the districts – this is a national problem that stems from both stigmas in the needs of special education and the lack of adequate funding for the programs these students depend on. Need proof? It’s been more than a decade since the last cost study in our state.
The Arizona Department of Education hasn’t studied special education costs since 2007, more than a decade ago, before the start of the Great Recession.
Since then, Arizona’s student population has changed, both in terms of the number of students with special needs and in the kind of services to best assist them.
Altavena, Lily. Arizona students with autism, other special needs aren’t getting enough school funding (The Republic, AZ Central). 2019.
All students deserve equal access and opportunity. Craig believes that changes to special education must be made on every level – in the classroom, in the district, in the state, and nationally.
He will advocate for increased pay and support for teachers, helping to retain and acquire qualified staff for these more difficult to fill positions. Turnover is extremely high in special education positions. We must continue to find ways of providing support for these classrooms, improving staff morale, and giving staff and students the resources they need to be successful.
Craig will also work at the district and state levels to advocate for an accurate cost study to determine the cost of providing services to special needs students and offering programs. He will lobby our legislature to offer better support for these students and programs.
After hearing complaints about the difficulty of obtaining IEP/504 designations for students, Craig believes that the Deer Valley Unified School District can standardize the process, offer better resources for parents, improve communications, and be more proactive in the identification and offer solutions for special needs children without it being difficult for the families involved.