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7 Ways Congress Can Invest in Students with Learning and Attention Issues

Written by Rachel Norman, Policy and Advocacy Program Assistant | June 22, 2016

Over the past year, NCLD has worked directly with Congress to expand educational opportunities and improve outcomes for students with learning and attention issues through laws like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the READ Act.

In order for these laws to be effective, Congress needs to provide adequate funding in their annual budget.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would fund the Department of Education and other related agencies.

NCLD sent a letter to Congress urging them to invest in programs that support all students. In particular, we urge Congress to:

  1. Invest in high quality early learning opportunities, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) infants, toddlers, and preschool grant programs and the Preschool Development Grants. It is no secret that the early years in your child’s life are the most formative. The sooner schools can screen for and identify learning and attention issues, the sooner they can provide students with appropriate interventions and supports.
  1. Fully fund Special Education, specifically the IDEA grants to states, which help to provide special education services to 2.5 million students with learning disabilities around the country. IDEA guarantees students with disabilities the right to accommodations and services, like specialized instruction and assistive technology. Parents know that when we invest in providing students with the supports they need, their potential is limitless.
  1. Ensure teachers are prepared to meet the needs of all students through programs like the Supporting Effective Instruction state grants and IDEA’s personnel preparation programs. Your child’s teacher is the single most important in-school factor impacting her achievement. Because most students with learning and attention issues spend most of the day in the general education classroom, it is necessary to build the expertise of all educators to provide all students, including those who have learning and attention issues, with a meaningful educational experience.
  1. Invest in evidence-based interventions by funding research at the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The research conducted at these centers provides us with information on how to tailor interventions to students with learning and attention issues that are rooted in the science of learning and the brain.
  1. Engage parents in their child’s education through the Special Education Parent Information Centers authorized in IDEA and the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) grant program authorized in ESSA. Under IDEA, parents are essential members of their child’s IEP team. Similarly, ESSA recognizes parents as key stakeholders in education decision-making.
  1. Ensure that all students learn to read with the help of the Comprehensive Literacy Programs recently authorized in the LEARN Act and the Comprehensive Literacy Center authorized in ESSA. Reading is a fundamental skill that is often hard for students with learning disabilities, like dyslexia, to master. Early recognition of learning challenges combined with timely, effective evidence-based services are critical to support student success.
  1. Improve transition to college for students with learning and attention issues by investing in the National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD), which provides critical information to families and assistance to colleges to meet the needs of all students. More students with learning and attention issues are graduating high school than ever before, yet many still face barriers. Colleges need to become welcoming environments for diverse learners.

The education budget is far from written in stone. Over the next several months, Congress will work to create a finalized budget for the President to sign into law this fall.

Throughout this process, members of Congress need to hear directly from parents and their children on how funding will have a real impact for the millions of students across the country with learning and attention issues.

That’s why we urge you to contact your representative (find them here), and tell them how your child relies on the services and supports funded by Congress to help her thrive.

Programs: