Children’s Law Center policy director Sharra Greer testified today before the DC Council’s Committee on Education for a budget hearing for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Read a summary below or her full written testimony as submitted to the committee.
OSSE’s proposed budget includes a significant increase in funding for one of the most critical components of the education system – services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays, reflecting finalized regulations that expand eligibility for these early intervention services. One of the goals of this program is to reduce the need for special education by helping young children catch up to their peers before they start school. This is the right approach for the long term, but we still need to provide a robust array of special education for students currently in elementary, middle, and high school. OSSE has a key leadership role to play, as the entity ultimately responsible for ensuring DC’s compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The mayor’s proposed budget doesn’t reinvest needed funds into special education programs in the public school system.
Two items from OSSE are on the budgetary wish list and should instead be fully funded in the budget: $11 million for more slots and increased provider rates in the child care subsidy program and funds for adult literacy and career and technical education. The additional money for special education services for infants and toddlers has to be paired with more money into the childcare centers that are supposed to provide all infants and toddlers with the foundation of cognitive and emotional development that they need as they move forward into school and adulthood. And with a large percentage of DC adults who are functionally illiterate, we need to in parents at the same time that we invest in students, otherwise students will continue to struggle because their parents will not be able to provide them with the stable housing, healthy food, clean clothes, and other basic supports that students need in order to focus on learning.
Children’s Law Center also suggests re-instituting the education ombudsman within OSSE. The ombudsman is a position that DC has been required by law to have since 2007, but the position was only funded for about a year. While it existed, the office proved itself valuable, and funding to staff that office should be committed.