Michigan’s Centers for Independent Living

Position Statement:
Education Policy for People with Disabilities

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Summary:

Michigan’s communities thrive when people with disabilities are contributing to all sectors of their community. We encourage policy-makers to support policies that promote a system of education for people with disabilities in settings designed to educate students to achieve economic self-sufficiency and reduce benefits dependency.

Issues:

  • As identified in Lt. Gov. Calley’s Special Education Task Force report, we have a systems breakdown with our integration of students with disabilities in the classroom, including:
    • A lack of individually-tailored services to meet the needs and accommodations for the student;
    • The use of restraint and/or seclusion as a behavior modification tool is problematic, and;
    • A preference to tailor the child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals to the services available within the district.
  • The issues identified are heightened by long-standing system deficiencies, such as a lack of effective training on inclusion for general education teachers and oversight on inclusion practices.
  • The formalities of the IEP process, as interpreted within the school structure, inhibit the ability of parents, caregivers, professional resources, school resources, and teachers to create more natural support structures through ongoing communication practices.
  • With the passage of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) in 2014, state vocational rehabilitation agencies are now mandated to take a role in the secondary education of students with disabilities. Yet, there is no corresponding mandate on school districts to participate or cooperate.
  • With the new transition planning requirements starting at age 14, there is no specified connection to independent living skill building as a component of that transition planning.
  • Even though federal law has now created a prohibition on students with disabilities being sent for work experience to sheltered workshops, too often those are the only locations that the school districts have relationships with for student placement.
  • There is no clear state direction on which state agency is responsible for what portion of transition education while a student is in secondary education.
  • Our education system is not working to transition students with disabilities into competitive, integrated employment. This system failure is contributing to the 35% point difference in employment rates between those with and without disabilities.

Recommendations:

  • The Department of Education, Workforce Development Agency, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons should immediately craft and implement a memorandum of understanding between the agencies to outline responsibilities for students with disabilities. This memorandum and any required legislation should include mandatory policy directives to all school districts in t
  • The state for compliance.The restraint and seclusion bill package that passed into law was a good first step, but lack of staff training and clarity for schools on effective implementation and strategies still need to be addressed. Community inclusion, communication standards, and required transition and behavior strategies, as well as, ways to address mental health needs, should all be considered in further bill package.

Closing:

Michigan will be at its best with persons with disabilities employed and contributing to their local communities. Policies and appropriately allocated resources are needed to move closer to this goal.