It took about four years, but the House finally passed State Representative Kim Williams‘ House Bill 86 that will mandate dedicated funding for critical educational interventions and services provided to students with special needs beginning when they enroll in kindergarten. The bill passed 40-1, with Republican Rich Collins being the sole no vote. You have to be a special kind of evil to vote against special education funding for little kids in kindergarten.
House Bill 86 would extend state funding for basic special education to kindergarten through third grade. The bill is a key part of a broad effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for these students, which will set them on a path for future success and potentially mitigate costs to the education system over the long term.
The Delaware education system classifies special education students into three categories: basic, intensive and complex. The state currently funds additional teacher units for intensive and complex special education from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The state only funds basic special education from fourth through 12th grade, leaving a gap in support for kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.
The bill would lead to hiring approximately 130 new teachers statewide to educate young children with special needs at a cost to the state of $11.9 million when fully implemented by fiscal year 2024. Funding for HB 86 was approved by the budget-drafting Joint Finance Committee last month. Rep. Williams noted that any upfront cost would likely be offset in the long run by reducing demands on state services and helping kids realize success later in their school careers and as adults.
Full state funding for basic K-3 special education services was included in an agreement reached last fall between the state and a group of advocates, including the Delaware NAACP, to settle a suit challenging Delaware’s funding of public education services for high-needs students.
|House Bill 86 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|K.Williams, Chukwuocha, Schwartzkopf, Longhurst, Mitchell, |
Bolden, Bush, Carson, Heffernan, Kowalko, Lynn,
Matthews, S. Moore, Morrison,
Osienski, Ramone, M.Smith, Wilson-Anton, Baumbach, Bennett,
Bentz, Brady, Cooke, Dorsey Walker, Griffith, K. Johnson, Lambert,
|The House Passed 40-1. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Bolden Brady Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton Briggs King D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley M.Smith Morris Postles Ramone Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick||Collins|
|Poore, Sturgeon, Lockman, Paradee, |
Gay, Hansen, Mantzavinos, S. McBride
|Current Status:||Senate Finance Committee 6/15/21|
“We know without a doubt that early identification and intervention are critical to a child’s overall success in school and life. No effort to improve the quality of public education in our state can be considered complete without a commitment to serve these students from their earliest school years,” said Rep. Williams, lead sponsor of HB 86 and chair of the House Education Committee. “My colleagues and I have worked to advance this legislation for nearly six years, and though it is long overdue I am thrilled that it is now coming to fruition.”
“For far too long, our state has failed to adequately fund special education in the earliest grades even though we know some of our most vulnerable children need additional support to help keep them from falling behind,” said Senator Nicole Poore, the Senate prime sponsor of HB 86.“Rep. Williams and I have fought for many years to bring K-3 basic special education funding in line with the higher grades and soon our hard work will provide desperately needed support to the children who need it the most. Our educators and all of the advocates who have fought alongside us deserve a tremendous amount of credit, and I look forward to quickly passing this bill in the Senate.”
House Bill 86 now heads to the Senate for consideration.