Special Education Tools & Resources
Funding and access to the intensive support and specialized services needed to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for special education students is challenged by underfunding, understaffing and lack of adequate professional development which perpetuates an achievement gap between students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. In the 2018–19 school year, about 164,000 (13%) of Virginia’s K–12 students were enrolled in special education.
Virginia PTA supports proper identification of and support for students with disabilities across all settings through increased professional development, access to curricula, and development of standardized tests and universal screeners that can accurately measure the capabilities of students with disabilities. Additionally, Virginia PTA supports fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which would give districts an enhanced ability to hire staff, such as related service providers, in ratios that significantly benefit both the identification of and provision of services for students with disabilities, while also increasing staff performance and retention.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) requires that each state establish and maintain a state advisory panel (State Special Education Advisory Committee, or SSEAC) to advise state special education staff regarding the education of children with disabilities. Virginia is unique in that each of our school divisions are required by the Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia to have a local advisory committee (local SEAC) for special education.
Virginia PTA encourages parents and PTAs to participate when possible in their school division’s state mandated Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs) and to advocate for robust parent communication of special education programs and fidelity of implementation in all special education services and programs to enable all students to meet their full academic potential.
VIRGINIA PTA IMPACT
PTA has a long history of advocacy for improving resources and funding for students with disablities and ensuring that parents are aware of their rights and have an active role partnering with the school to develop an instructional program and/or other related services based on the needs of children with disabilities. Many PTA’s across the Commonwealth send a representative to their school divisions Special Education Advisory Committee meeting and incorporate information from those meetings in their advocacy and family engagement programs. Additionally Virignia PTA has several Special Education Parent Teacher Associations who provide a way for families to connect and advocate across a single school division.
During the 2021 General Assembly Session Virginia PTA successfully advocated for legislation to implement changes recommended by the General Assembly’s JLARC study and partnered with other associations across the county to secure passage of the Keeping Students Safe Act.
Help #TakeAction4Kids by speaking at Board of Supervisor or School Board meetings, emailing your legislators, getting active on social media, writing letters to editor, joining a virtual rally or attend Virginia PTA’s Capitol Day.
FAMILY RESOURCES FROM THE VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
- Special Education for Families
- The Virginia Family’s Guide to Special Education (Español)
- Critical Decision Points for Families of Children with Disabilities (Training Modules | Videos)
- Understanding the Applied Studies Diploma (Español)
- Back to Basics Law Modules
- A Guide for Local Special Education Advisory Committees in Virginia
- Parent Ombudsman for Special Education
- State Special Education Advisory Committee (SSEAC)
- Advocating for Your Special Education Student with Lorraine Hightower
- Special Education During COVID-19 with VDOE
PTA POSITIONS & POLICY LETTERS
- Virginia PTA Resolution: Special Education Funding, Services, Training & Oversight
- Virginia PTA Resolution: Restraint & Seclusion
- Virginia PTA Resolution: Dyslexia
- National PTA Position: The Education of Students with Special Needs
- National PTA Position: Restraint and Seclusion
- National PTA Resolution: High Expectations for Students with Disabilities
- National PTA Resolution: Inclusive Schools Build Better Communities
RESOURCES & RESEARCH
The Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) is a statewide nonprofit that has served as Virginia’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) for over 40 years. With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration, and the Virginia Department of Education, PEATC helps families, students, and professionals gain knowledge and advocacy skills to navigate special education and disability services in Virginia. PEATC offers fact sheets and resources on its website as well as an ongoing schedule of workshops and training programs designed for families. PEATC also offers one-on-one support via specialists in early childhood, transition, family engagement, military outreach, LatinX outreach and more. Below is a sample of some of their resources. Please visit peatc.org for more helpful tools including documents in Spanish and a calendar of upcoming workshops.
- Transition to Kindergarten
- IEP Checklist
- Independent/Life Skills Checklist
- Student Profile
- Having a Successful IEP Meeting
- Procedural Safeguards
- Testing Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
- Health Care Transition Skills Checklist
- Planning for the Future—Choosing the Right Diploma Option for Your Child
- Transition Guide: Self-Advocacy
- Transition IEP Checklist
- Turning 18 in Virginia
- Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in Transition Planning
- Social Media and Students with Disabilities
- Why Parent-Teacher Engagement Is Critical to Student Success