Too Many Children in Special Education!

Too many American school children are placed in special education. Once there were handicapped children who did not attend school, and those who did did not receive a “Free Appropriate Public Education.” In 1975 at the time of enactment of Public Law 94-142 (Education of All Handicapped Children Act) too few children received proper special education. Special needs children were under served. But subsequently their numbers rose rapidly:

“Special education enrollments grew dramatically after the federal special education law went into effect in 1976 (sic). Then, 8% of all public school students were classified as having a disability. By 1990 it was just under 11%. The growth accelerated throughout the 1990s, and by 2000 it was over 13%. The growth seems to have tapered off in the early 2000s, but the over 50% increase in the percentage of students called “disabled” remains” (Foster and Greene, 2008).

Why? Jay Green says growth cannot be attributed to disability factors:

“The number of premies and deinstitutionalized students pales in comparison to the growth in special ed, which has almost entirely occurred in SLD.  And mental retardation has been declining and total severe disabilities have remained flat over time, contrary to what one would expect if premies and deinstitutionalization were at work.  And poverty cannot, by definition, be the cause of a disability.”

The National Education Association looks at the numbers problem this way: “Over the past 10 years, the number of U.S. students enrolled in special education programs has risen 30 percent. Three out of every four students with disabilities spend part or all of their school day in a general education classroom. In turn, nearly every general education classroom across the country includes students with disabilities. Each school and school district must determine the best way to conduct programs and figure out how to pay for them.”

Steppling, Quattlebaum and Brady (2008) report the same trends in school speech-language pathology: “The number of children receiving speech–language therapy in the schools has been increasing. Information from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) indicates that between the 1991–1992 and 2000–2001 school years, the number of children being served by speech–language pathologists (SLPs) grew by 9.5% (ASHA, 2004). “SLPs are increasing their rates of placement commensurate with national trends. Along with school psychologists, speech-language pathologists have been placing the majority of added pupils to special education.

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