Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton is perhaps the only presidential candidate who talks about special education on the campaign trail—and that’s probably a wise move, since about 6.8 million children in the United States have disabilities. That represents about 12 percent of students nationwide—a not-to-be-overlooked proportion of American families.
She used this as an opportunity to bash the No Child Left Behind Act as an unfunded federal mandate that has resulted in schools full of “little test-takers” and “test givers.”
But she also reiterated her support for fully funding the federal portion of special education. She correctly said that the federal government pays about 17 percent of special education costs, when the original funding goal was set at 40 percent back when the nation’s special education law was passed in 1975.
Funding special education doesn’t end there, either. Clinton should also take a look at looming Medicaid cuts from the Bush administration that threaten some of the services—such as speech therapy—for which schools currently are reimbursed.
Special education is one of the most complex, important parts of the K-12 system—and you can read more about it at edweek.org’s new blog, On Special Education, by fellow reporter Christina Samuels.