Students with disabilities may receive additional year of special education

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Gov. Phil Murphy has signed legislation (S-3434/A-5366) to offer an additional year of public education and related services to students with disabilities.

This bill will provide a temporary one-year extension of special education and related services to students with disabilities who exceed, or will exceed, the current age of eligibility for special education and related services in the 2020-21, 2021-22 or 2022-23 school year following a determination by the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team that such education and/or services are necessary, according to a press release from Murphy’s office.

“The pandemic has been especially hard on students with disabilities who rely on school programs to ensure they have the skills and services they need to be successful following graduation,” Murphy said.

“By providing an additional year for students who will otherwise age out allows to us acknowledge the unique impact of the pandemic on these students and help secure a better future for them and their families,” he said.

The Department of Education (DOE) estimates that approximately 8,700 students across the state are expected to age out of their special education services over the course of the three applicable school years under this legislation, an estimated cost of approximately $600 million over three years, according to the press release.

On June 16, Murphy announced the Administration will be allocating federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to cover the cost of the temporary expansion of these services.

“In New Jersey, we are committed to providing a quality education to all students, especially to those who are most vulnerable,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education.

“We know the global pandemic has adversely impacted our students with special needs who have an IEP and this important measure will extend the academics and supports to those students who would otherwise ‘age out’ of the school system,” she said.

“Enactment of this measure is a tremendous victory for advocates and families who worked tirelessly for its passage, and who fight every day to ensure their children have access to vital resources and services,” state Senate President Steve Sweeney said.

“The extension is a crucial lifeline to students on the brink of aging out who lost educational services to the pandemic at a critical time for them and their families.

“Because of COVID-19, they experienced real hardships that made it difficult for them to participate in the services and activities that will enable them to realize their potential. This measure will provide a bridge to independence so these students can regain the skill-based training that was stolen by COVID-19,” Sweeney was quoted as saying in the press release.