Major Wins for DC Children as DC’s Budget Passes
This spring, DC Council voted to pass the fiscal year 2019 budget. Thanks to your partnership and support, we’re celebrating two major funding victories for DC kids.
Victory One: Expanded Special Education Services, Tots Through Teens
In 2014, DC Council passed a law to get special education services to children earlier, faster and more effectively. However, four years later, three critical changes remained unfunded—and therefore unimplemented. This year, our team continued our expansive, multi-year advocacy campaign to include these initiatives in the budget, including a big social media campaign that urged OSSE, the Deputy Mayor for Education and DC Council to finally fully fund these critical reforms—and we won!
As a result, all three reforms are now fully funded! Here’s how it helps DC kids:
- Starting Kindergarten on Track: In the past, infants and toddlers had to show major or multiple delays in a developmental area (like walking or talking) to qualify for services. That meant kids with minor developmental delays were beginning kindergarten already behind their peers, and the result was poor academic performance. Now, these children will receive help early, giving them the tools they need to succeed.
- A Shorter Wait: Children now have the right to a special education evaluation—the first, critical step to getting support—within 60 days, rather than the previous 120 day wait.
- Planning for the Future: Schools will begin preparing teenagers with special needs for adulthood at 14, as opposed to 16. This critical change gives students and their families more time, skills and support to plan for the future.
Victory Two: School Based Mental Health
We see it with our clients every day—mental health supports in school can make a life-changing difference for students. We also know that one of the best ways to improve mental health care is to provide services where children are. Unfortunately, a majority of schools don’t have the services to meet students’ mental health needs.
That’s why we’re thrilled that DC Council is funding school based mental health reforms in DC.
In 2016, we joined the Department of Behavioral Health’s Working Group on School Based Mental Health, the team charged with recommending critical updates to the District’s school based mental health services—and we’ve been working hard ever since.
As a result, this fall, a new model of mental health reforms—one with additional resources—will be implemented in DC schools. The goal? All DC schools having adequate resources to provide support to each of their students for the next several years. Schools can now work to tailor a variety of programs, services and supports to meet the needs of each individual student.
This is an important first step toward traditional and charter schools building several levels of mental health supports.
A Big Thanks to YOU!
These hard-fought victories wouldn’t be possible without your support. Your commitment to Children’s Law Center is changing the lives of kids right here in your city, and ensuring more District children are on the path to a better education.