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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Racial quotas for special ed?

Percentage of children and youth ages 3–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by race/ethnicity: 2014–15

Don’t set racial quotas for special education, writes Jerome Woehrle on Liberty Unyielding. The Education Department is soliciting public input on delaying or dumping an Obama-era regulation that threatened funding of districts that  disproportionately place blacks and Latinos in special education.

The rule should be repealed, writes Woehrle. “As researchers have concluded, black and Hispanic students are more likely to need special ed, since they are “more likely to be exposed to health-related, environmental, nutritional, social, and economic factors” causing “developmental delays or disabilities.”

Some argue that “blacks and Hispanics are ‘less likely’ to be identified as needing special education when they in fact need it,” he writes.

Rather than financially punishing school systems that don’t meet racial quotas, the replacement regulation should penalize only school systems whose process for identifying children as needing such services is much more inaccurate for members of one racial group than another. (Such inaccuracies might be caused by failure to take into account economic, cultural, or linguistic barriers to appropriate identification or placement that skew the process against a minority group).

In California, teachers have told me that it’s difficult to get English Learners assessed for disabilities: It’s assumed all their learning problems are caused by their lack of English proficiency.

Special education was “created to push students forward, but has been used to keep them back,” writes Jemelleh Coes, Georgia’s 2014 Teacher of the Year and a former special-ed teacher, in Education Post.

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