ALBANY, NY (12/06/2017) (readMedia)-- NYSASBO has released a report on students with disabilities in New York's public schools that shows diagnosis rates, achievement, and spending are closely linked with student poverty and local wealth.
Autism, speech or language impairments, health impairments, and learning disabilities account for more than 85 percent of all disability diagnoses. In the wealthiest 10 percent of school district, students with disabilities are 13 percent of enrollment, while in the poorest 10 percent of school districts, they are 19 percent of enrollment. Learning disabilities, the most frequently diagnosed disability, accounts for these differences. In the wealthiest districts, students with learning disabilities are four percent of the overall student population; in the poorest districts, they are seven percent.
In addition to gaps in diagnosis rates, expenditures on students with disabilities differ greatly depending on district wealth. Special education spending in the lowest need districts is $43,635 per special education pupil, while spending in the highest need districts is $25,823 per special education pupil.
Students in the lowest need districts are also more likely to be spend most of their time in general education classrooms. 64 percent of students with disabilities in the wealthiest districts spend most of their school day in general education classrooms, while nine percent spend most of their time outside of it. In the poorest districts, 54 percent spend most of their time in general education classrooms, while 21 percent spend most of their time outside of general education classrooms.
These differences are reflected in student achievement. Students with disabilities in the lowest need school districts have ELA and math proficiency rates that are more than six times higher than students with disabilities in the highest need school districts. Their four-year graduation rate of 81 percent is more than twice in the poorest 10 percent of school districts, where only 40 percent of students with disabilities graduated high school within four years.
"Despite modest gains in proficiency the continued inequities in funding falls disproportionally on our most vulnerable and needy students", stated Michael J. Borges, NYSASBO Executive Director.
NYSASBO has proposed updating cost-studies of schools that have successfully educated students with disabilities to better align State Aid with student need. Syracuse University Professor John Yinger recently presented research showing funding for students with severe disabilities should be 6.7 percent higher to achieve proficiency.
As student need continues to rise, it becomes even more important that the state commit to fully funding its Foundation Aid formula, which is currently $4.2 billion short. Ensuring all students, regardless of need or local resources, receive an adequate education is a vital part of New York's future.
"I am hopeful that this coming legislative session will bring long overdue changes to the Foundation Aid formula that will help school districts educate all students, including students with disabilities," concluded Mr. Borges.