Superintendent Hoffman Delivers 2021 “State of Special Education” Address to Arizona Legislature

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ASL Video HERE

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This past week, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman delivered her second “State of Special Education” address to the Arizona Legislature’s House Education Committee. A transcript of the address is available here, and you can watch a video of the address here. To watch a video of the address in ASL, click here.

Arizona Superintendents of Public Instruction are statewide elected officials who serve as the head of the Arizona Department of Education. Historically, the superintendent has delivered a “State of Education” address before the House and Senate education committees. Beginning in February 2020, Superintendent Hoffman added a second address – one on the state of special education for Arizona students with disabilities. Hoffman, who was elected in November 2018, worked as a public school speech therapist before she ran for office, and has often stated that improving special education in Arizona is a priority for her.

This year, Superintendent Hoffman’s “State of Special Education” focused on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and school closures on students with disabilities. She described the difficult choices many families have faced, weighing the health risks of sending their children back to school for in-person learning against the educational and social-emotional toll of distance learning, particularly on students with disabilities who may not be able to benefit from online services. Her address highlights several initiatives the Arizona Department of Education has undertaken to try to tackle these problems, including efforts to expand internet access for students, a change in certification requirements that allows teachers to become dually certified in order to teach special education, and the Arizona Department of Education’s designation of $5 million in CARES Act funding to be used to provide compensatory education to students with disabilities who did not receive a free and appropriate public education during COVID-19 school closures.

This last point is an important one for families to understand. Much of the federal stimulus funding passed through the CARES Act in March 2020 was designated for schools. The Arizona Department of Education decided to designate $5 million of the stimulus dollars it received for compensatory education for students with disabilities who were denied access to a free and appropriate public education during the COVID crisis. However, that funding is only available until September 30, 2021, at which time it may be reallocated by the Department for a different purpose. To date, very few Arizona schools have applied for access to this funding.

Students with disabilities and their parents should be aware that they may be entitled to compensatory education if they missed out on services or experienced regression during distance learning. Please check out ACDL’s 3-part blog post series about compensatory education in light of COVID to learn more about what compensatory education is and how to approach your child’s school about it. And, feel free to remind your child’s school that there is funding sitting at the Department of Education waiting for them to use for precisely this purpose. Because of the upcoming expiration date on these special funds, we encourage families to start talking to their children’s schools now about compensatory education. Even if you do not want your child to be provided compensatory education until next school year, or until it is safe for in-person services to take place, start the conversation now and hammer out an agreement so your child’s school can apply for funding from this CARES Act fund before it is too late!

 

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