Special Education Policy Changes
Special Education Policy Changes
At a Glance
We’ll say it – special education is a big deal! From curriculum modifications to assistive technology to occupational and physical therapy, special education supports and services help students with disabilities thrive. Between the ages of 3 and 21, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a federally recognized right to a free and appropriate public education. In accordance with this legal commitment, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) establish student education goals and guide the provision of special education services.The 2023 Washington State legislative session heard many different bills seeking to make changes to state level special education law and policy. This edition of Arc Amplified will take a closer look at special education bills that passed and “died,” and what you need to know about the policy changes to come.
Special Education Funding Cap
In the current 2022-2023 school year, Washington State has a special education funding cap set at 13.5%. This means that funding for special education services is capped at 13.5% of a school district’s total student population. School districts must use other funding sources, such as local levies and safety net funding, to pay for special education services when more than 13.5% of the student population have IEPs. For example, if 18.5% of the students in a school district receive special education services, state special education funding will cap at 13.5% and the district will have to use other funding for the remaining 5% of the student population.
A Tale of Two Bills
This year, two different special education bills (HB 1436 and SB 5311) sought to make changes to the same special education funding formula. Throughout the legislative session, legislators in the House and the Senate made significant amendments to both HB 1436 and SB 5311. As the changes unfolded, so too did changes in which bill The Arc of Washington State favored over the other. The original HB 1436 would incrementally increase the special education funding cap until removing it entirely in the 2027-2028 school year, and SB 5311 would increase the special education funding cap from 13.5% to 15%. As of Friday, April 21st, the House and Senate reached a compromise with these two bills. They put the new striking amendment on HB 1436, which is now the bill moving forward. The special education funding cap is raised to 15% starting in the 2023-2024 school year. This bill also requires reviews and technical assistance for disproportionality, and adds special education ombuds, run by the Office of the Education Ombuds, to each educational service district (ESD). Additionally, it requires a specific accounting methodology through 2026-27, lowers the threshold for accessing safety net for high-cost IEPs, and provides professional development for inclusionary practices. The Senate passed this new bill unanimously and the House has signed, and now the final step is for the Governor to sign it into law!
What Passed Both Chambers?
Of this year’s education related bills, many made significant progress towards becoming Washington State law. Here are the bills that have passed both the House and the Senate:
- HB 1207 will create new resources and policies for addressing harassment, intimidation, bullying, and discrimination in schools. The Arc of Washington State supports this bill.
- HB 1238 will provide one free breakfast and one free lunch to students who request a meal in grades K-4 in school districts that meet certain federal poverty guidelines. The Arc of Washington State supports this bill.
- HB 1550 will establish a transition to kindergarten program for eligible children. The Arc of Washington State lists HB 1550 as under review, meaning that The Arc of Washington State has not taken a firm stance on this bill.
- SB 5243 will establish new requirements and advanced planning for high school and beyond plans for students both with and without IEPs. The Arc of Washington State supports this bill.
- SB 5315 will create standards for approval, monitoring, and investigating Non-Public Agencies serving students with disabilities. The Arc of Washington State supports this bill.
What Didn’t Pass?
Other education bills from earlier in session will not pass this year. As this year is the first year in the 2023-2024 biennium, it is possible for this year’s “dead” bills to carry over into next year’s legislative session to try again.
- HB 1109 died when it did not pass out of Senate Ways and Means. This bill would incentivize school districts to conduct IEP meetings during the summer. This would allow students with IEPs to start the school year with their IEP goals, curriculum modifications, and special education services in place. The Arc of Washington State supported this bill.
- HB 1248 died in House Rules. This bill would expand student transportation funding to include various other incidental transportation costs, such as out of district transportation. Currently, Washington State school transportation funding only covers standard home to school transportation routes. All extra services are not funded by the state and instead are covered by the district. The Arc of Washington State supported this bill.
- HB 1305 died in House Rules. This bill would improve access to the federally mandated free and appropriate public education for students with disabilities. Among the many changes to access to special education services, this bill also originally would have changed the burden of proof for denial of services from the parent to the district. This would have opened up many more special education opportunities for students who need them, and made it more difficult for districts to deny those services. This provision was removed from a later version of the bill, and this caused it to lose support from most of the IDD community. The Arc of Washington State supported the original bill.
- HB 1479 died when it did not make it out of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education. This bill would completely remove student isolation from schools, and greatly limit restraint to be used only in the instance of safety for the student or others. The Arc of Washington State supported this bill.
- SB 5031 died when the Senate refused to concur with the House amendments. This bill would have allowed out-of-state Non-Public Agencies to apply for Washington State special education safety net funding. The Arc of Washington State listed this bill as under review.
- SB 5174 died when the House insisted on its amendments after the Senate refused to concur. This bill would have required OSPI to cover school transportations costs and would also make changes to the transportation funding formula. The Arc of Washington State listed this bill as under review.
Want to Learn More?
The Washington State 2023 legislative session adjourned sine die on Sunday, April 23rd. Join The Arc of Snohomish County on Thursday, May 18th from 6-7 PM for our Legislative Recap event! Jake and Rachel will share the highlights from the legislative session and the important new policy changes affecting Washington State's intellectual and developmental disability community. Join us on Zoom to learn more about the bills that passed and "died," answer your questions about the legislative session, and discuss next steps for continued advocacy. Register to receive the Legislative Recap Zoom link.