If you follow our policy work, you know that we care deeply about making sure that every student has the opportunity to graduate from high school with a regular diploma. In fact, we have an action alert up right now on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) asking you to tell your Representative to keep students on track for a diploma.
But what happens to students with learning disabilities (LD) who don’t graduate with a regular diploma or who struggle to gain the career training or literacy support they need to navigate the workplace? We care about them too, and that’s why we’ve been working with Congress on a law called the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
What Is WIA? Enacted in 1998, WIA is the largest source of federal funding for job training in the United States. WIA authorizes state and local workforce boards to oversee “One-Stop” training centers where individuals can get job training, education and employment services all in one location. To find a center near you, visit the federal government-sponsored website, CareerOneStop.
Do Individuals With LD Qualify for WIA's Job Training Benefits? Sometimes. Because of the way WIA is currently written, many people with LD don’t have access to WIA’s job training and education benefits. Nationwide, 19 percent of students with specific learning disabilities drop out of high school, and 32 percent do not graduate with a regular diploma. Many of these young adults lack the education and skills necessary to get a job. They need the training and resources that WIA provides.
What Is Being Done? We have been working with Congress to update WIA with language that would increase access to these benefits for people with LD. In the Senate, the news is positive. Republicans and Democrats are working together on a bi-partisan bill under the direction of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA). This bill specifically mentions people with LD (as well as others who struggle) as eligible for literacy support services under WIA. The bill also provides for at-risk youth, including high school drop outs and people with severe disabilities as eligible for training and support. To learn more about WIA, take a look at our issue brief and read our letter in support of Senate bill 1356.
What Can the LD Community Do? Keep an eye out for action alerts on WIA. Remember that we want people with LD to succeed both in school and in the workplace, and we need to make sure support exists in both areas. In the future, when the changes to WIA are finalized and we’ve improved access for people with LD, we’ll also need your help in letting people know that these resources exist.