Education Law Center is calling on Governor Phil Murphy to quickly sign a bill to assist older students with significant disabilities who lost critical transition services during the pandemic. The legislation, Senate Bill 3434, would, if enacted, avert the imminent termination of services for students who will otherwise graduate from their public schools this month.
ELC submitted testimony in support of S3434 to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The New Jersey Special Education Practitioners (NJSEP), founded and moderated by ELC, submitted testimony to the Assembly Education Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill passed the full Assembly and Senate and was sent to the Governor’s desk on June 3, where it awaits his signature to become law.
S3434 authorizes the extension of special education services for students who turned 21 during the 2020-21 school year or will turn 21 during the next two school years. Students remain eligible for special education services until age 21 when their disabilities are significant, typically receiving in-person community- or job-based instruction in their later years so they can transition from school to post-secondary activities and avoid prolonged inactivity.
“Severe pandemic-related disruptions to critical transition services have led to students sitting at home and their families desperate to make up for what was lost,” said Rebecca Spar, Esq., ELC trustee, NJSEP member, and a leading expert in special education law. “These students have viable compensatory education claims under federal law, but both school districts and students benefit from a clear policy authorizing these services without the need for litigation.”
“S3434 requires these services to be funded out of federal relief funds, and these are precisely the type of compensatory services that emergency federal COVID-19 relief can cover,” said ELC Senior Attorney Elizabeth Athos. “In the unlikely event federal funds cannot be used, S3434 requires the State to fund services for this small, but very vulnerable, group of students. It’s not a difficult call to extend a lifeline to these students.”
NJSEP is an association of over 100 attorneys and non-attorney advocates representing parents and students in special education cases. NJSEP testimony before the Legislature was supported by Advocates for Children of New Jersey, Innisfree Foundation, NJ Advocates in Action, Save Our Schools NJ Community Organizing, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, as well as ELC.
ELC also partnered with other organizations actively supporting this legislation, such as the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, on a fact sheet for parents anxiously awaiting enactment of this law.
Supporters of S3434 are urged to contact Governor Murphy as soon as possible to encourage him to sign the bill. Send a message through the Governor’s website: https://nj.gov/governor/contact/all/. Tweet the Governor: @GovMurphy. Contact the Governor on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/governorphilmurphy.
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