Below is Disability Network/Michigan's position statement on education. This information is supported by the Common Disability Agenda.
- Inclusive, high quality education is a common goal.
Michigan needs well-educated citizens. They are key to our economic future. Persons with disabilities also need education – it leads them to work and to physical and economic independence. Yet we continue to maintain two separate education systems – one for persons with disabilities, and one for persons without disabilities. A dual system is untenably expensive, and it doesn’t work for children with disabilities who have a higher drop-out rate than children without disabilities.
- Michigan, its lawmakers, educators and citizens, must commit to helping all students learn, grow, and go to school together. That certainly includes students with disabilities - they also have a right to a quality education. Students with disabilities must get the support they need, in school with other students, to prepare for work and life. Based upon data provided by the Michigan Department of Education, the drop out rate (2002-2003) for Special Education students was 38.74% versus 4.08% for General Education students.
Michigan must work hard toward a system of Universal Education. The result will be all students together, all the time. The current system directs many students with disabilities to separate schools and classes. This problem is becoming critical, especially for students who have significant disabilities. Many are completely separated from the mainstream educational process. A separate school system and divided classes are wasteful and unfair.
- Students must have access to a Universal Education system supported by both the state and local schools. All students should take tests to record their progress, and all schools should be reviewed for compliance with the No Child Left Behind Law and Education Yes! program.
Laws that promote segregation must be removed. These include laws that grant licenses to early child education facilities that exclude children with special needs and financially reward school districts for building special education centers.
A Level Playing Field
- Financially, some school districts have serious trouble providing high-quality education and supports for all students, including those with disabilities. The state’s difficult financial situation may threaten the extra supports some students need. Given Michigan’s budget problems, it’s doubly important that the federal government follow through on its under-funded mandates, such as No Child Left Behind.
Federal aid and services for poor students must increase, assuring true equal opportunity to learn and succeed. Underserved parts of the state must receive extra help. The state should honor its obligation to educate all students with high needs, including those who live in foster care, the juvenile justice system, and adult prisons.
Positive Behavior Support
- Educators should reinforce creative and positive responses toward seemingly disruptive students. Similarly, complaints of abuse and illegal treatment should be investigated. Supporting positive behavior helps schools prevent unnecessary and drastic action such as suspensions, expulsions, and improper use of seclusion and restraint.
Following the Law
- State-level administrators must have more power to investigate complaints and resolve problems to the benefit of students. These leaders must also begin to dispute resolution changes mandated by the State’s own corrective action plan. The State should also make changes to better supervise charter schools.
Great strides have been made in inclusive education in the past decade. Still, students with special needs are separated from students without disabilities. Universal Education, the next level of improvement, is a winning solution for all students.
- The campuses and lecture halls of Michigan’s institutions of higher education must swing open their doors and welcome all citizens seeking advanced education. According to Cathy Henderson of the American Council on Education (2001) only 6 percent of our nation’s first-time, four-year universities’ freshman population included individuals with disabilities. This statistic demonstrates the serious inaccessibility of advanced education whether it is due to the rising tuition costs, lack of physical accessibility of campuses, or the under-preparedness of students with disabilities. Unless our state institutions of higher education aggressively support and welcome citizens with disabilities, the future economic prosperity of citizens with disabilities is seriously endangered. Attainment of an advanced education is a means to reach out of poverty and reach economic self-sufficiency and personal well-being.