Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Legislative Update: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Education

Today was the first meeting of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Education. Topics today included a discussion on NC Wise, a computer system that permits the state to acurately track attendance of students in our schools. This information generates the data for our graduation co-hort rates and drop out information. Having computers available in each of our classrooms also permits students to access online information and research. This is very important in shrinking the digital divide between urban and rural schools. This years budget did not fully fund assistive technology in our schools.
Also we received an overview of the Eckerd Wilderness Camps, part of the Eckerd Youth Aleternatives program. This is a successful model of state organizations teaming with non-profit private organizations to provide a place for high risk children. The Eckerd Wilderness program presented that of the children then serve currently 91% have been suspended, expelled, or placed in an alternative school or dropout prevention program. 34% of the students served are identified as sepcial education students with 15% of these students classified as Emotionally Disturbed. There were obvious question as to how the success of this program can assist with preventing the rising number of drop outs in our state. The obvious answer is that this program addresses not only the educational needs of the student but all the emotional and support needs of the student. They involve the parents in the process. They work with the strengths of the individual student and work to improve on the weakness of the student. It is a comprehensive approach to the total child.
In upcoming meetings this committee will adress access to higher education in our UNC system. Included in this will hopefully be a comprehensive look at disability access to our university system. Nationally there is a 71% drop out rate for students with hearing disabilities in their first year of college. The UNC system is still facing issues regarding both physical access to their buildings as well as issues with providing appropriate accademic supports to students with disabilities. House Bill 1641 Study Disabled Access to UNC Facilities passed the House Committee on Education during this past session and was included in both the House and Senate study bills. The Arc of North Carolina is advocating that HB 1641 be used as a template to study current access at the UNC campuses and that the request for action by UNC comes out of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Education.
Also on the agenda for a future meeting is SL 2007-295 (HB 17) Study Services for Students with Disabilities in High School. This bill was passed by the House and Senate during this most recent legislative session. DPI will be reporting on the progress of this study and will present the results by March 1, 2008. The current 4 year cohort graduation rate for students with disabilities in our state is 49.4%. It is imperative that this number is addressed and that we find a way to graduate more students with disabilities.
The Arc of North Carolina will be following all of the proceedings of this committee.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to get clarification on this HB1641. The Dept of Public Instruction is supposed to look into the study of access to the UNC system and higher education needs for students with disabilities. Does this mean physical access or are they talking admissions for people with disabilities including cognitive delays?... like the programs found in Maine & Pennsylvania?

Julia Leggett, Policy Coordinator said...

Thanks for your question.

This legislation was included in the Omnibus Study Bill, however, this bill was not passed and this study is not being done at this time.

This legislation would have directed the Board of Governors to study access on all 16 UNC campuses.

Here is the text of the bill.
SECTION 1. The Board of Governors of The University of North Carolina shall study the accessibility of its facilities to severely physically disabled individuals seeking basic access to higher education at constituent institutions within the State University System. In its study, the Board of Governors may consider all of the following:

(1) What specific educational assistance the State has funded that would be available to severely physically disabled individuals.

(2) What specific educational assistance the State currently funds that would be available to severely physically disabled individuals.

(3) The role of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation of the Department of Health and Human Services in providing educational assistance at public and private universities or secondary schools that was, or currently is, available to severely physically disabled individuals.

(4) Whether the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation of the Department of Health and Human Services could provide for the personal care of severely physically disabled students at one or more constituent institutions within the State University System.

(5) The desirability and feasibility of making the facilities of one constituent institution accessible to severely physically disabled students.

(6) The estimated costs of making the facilities of one constituent institution accessible to severely physically disabled students and providing for the personal care of severely physically disabled students at this institution.

(7) Whether the Illinois program to support its physically disabled population at its state universities offers any guidance to North Carolina.

(8) Any other issues the Board of Governors deems pertinent to its study under this section.


If were were to have this study and could shape it after the programs at the University of Illinois then entrance for students with cognitive disabilities would be included.

Just to let you know, recently the Congress passed and the President signed the College Affordabilitiy Act which does provide grants to states to create community college programs for students with cognitive disabilities.