Leo’s Letter: Delaying Equity Only Adds to the High Cost of School Failure

Some days ago, I came across this phrase: “the exorbitant cost of school failure.” You can interpret it in two ways. There are people who don’t take advantage of their education and the cost to them can be unreasonably high in terms of future accomplishment.

But what about those with disabilities, where school failure is due to a poor educational plan? Through no fault of his or her own, the student’s life may become a life…

  • full of restrictions due to inadequate living skills
  • characterized by unemployment
  • caught in the criminal justice system

School failures also translate into higher adult services costs. But schools don’t worry about that because once the student “Turns 22,” he or she is off their budget books. Imagine, cost shifting a life!

Now the federal administration wants to delay implementation of equity regulations. Their reason: they want to make sure their regulations are more effective: “In order to ensure the Department’s ‘Equity in IDEA’ or ‘significant disproportionality’ regulations effectively address significant disproportionality, the Department proposes to postpone the compliance date by two years, from July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2020.” In fact, while the feds are at it, they’ll delay the analysis of kids from ages three to five for two more years too until 2022.

Why should we care? It’s harmful to students of color to not provide equal education. Along with other groups, The Arc released a statement about this issue which I have simplified here:

  • Research shows that students of color are treated unfairly in terms of over identification with certain types of disabilities.
  • This has resulted in placement in segregated classes, as well as suspension and expulsion from school.
  • A delay in compliance of regulations increases the likelihood that students of color will be subjected to inappropriate educational segregation and harmful disciplinary practices, with potentially lifelong negative consequences.

We know anecdotally that students from families who understand how the system works and have resources are able to get better results in access to and the quality of services. Some of that is due to the family’s own efforts. But that, too, is an indictment against services – that all families must continually have to advocate for the right educational plan for their child or the student’s education will come up short. This uphill fight is even tougher for those without resources or from racial and ethnic minorities.

Many states have already moved forward with implementation of the equity regulation in anticipation of the 2018 start date. Delaying implementation only adds additional burden to those states, as well as unnecessary confusion at the state and local level. To learn more about this issue, you can view this short video. Let’s not delay doing the right thing!






Leo V. Sarkissian
Executive Director

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