Parents are a critical part of the school community and are the best advocates for their children. For parents of children with disabilities, family engagement is especially important to securing services and supporting their child’s education. Even though research has shown that students with engaged families attend school more regularly and earn better grades, too few schools are investing in family engagement. A recently released report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Data Point shows only 51 percent of school principals reported having a staff member assigned to work on parent involvement, 53 percent said they had workshops available for parents, and only 17 percent said they had drop-in centers for parents.

For the first time in 8 years, Congress showed they recognize the importance of family engagement in education by providing $10 million to establish Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) around the country. Supported by the National Center for Learning Disabilities and National PTA, this program (formerly called the Parental Information Resource Centers Program), builds capacity for states and school districts to provide much needed professional development for educators and school leaders to strengthen school-family partnerships and parent-teacher relationships. The program also provides direct services to families to give them the tools to effectively work with their child’s school to improve their child’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

It is important for all students but especially those of whom have learning and attention issues to have a supportive and empowering relationship between their school and family as they navigate through processes such as developing their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Statewide Family Engagement Centers will assist in providing the necessary resources and tools to make sure students, families, and educators are all on the same page to create a quality learning environment.

Whether they are advocating for their schools or districts to provide quality teacher professional development or helping their child learn how to advocate for themselves, parents play a critical role in the success of their child’s education. Congress seems to have finally acknowledged this after many years of not providing funds to help schools and families work together. NCLD and National PTA are committed to working to ensure that this funding will continue for years to come. Join us in this effort by contacting your members of Congress to continue to fund this important program.

Keep up to date on policy news impacting students with learning and attention issues and families by signing up for NCLD’s e-newsletter and National PTA’s e-newsletter.

Jacki Ball is the Director of Government Affairs for National PTA.
Lindsay Kubatzky is the Policy Research Associate for the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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