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Special Education Essential to Preschool Plans, Says Advocacy Group

Boosting funding for young children with disabilities covered under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act should be a part of the Obama administration's plans to expand early-learning opportunities, says a letter from the Council for Exceptional Children's division for early childhood.

Most of the federal government's funding goes to what is known as Part B of the special education law, which serves students from 3 to 22 years old. However, another part of the law, Part C, helps pay for early-intervention services for babies and toddlers. While school-age children covered under the law receive "individualized education programs," the babies and toddlers get "individualized family service plans," which support that child's family. About 450,000 children were covered by the law in 2011, the latest year for which statistics are available. (In comparison, about 6.5 million students were served that year under IDEA Part B.)

The CEC's early-childhood division says that states applying for early-learning grants should explicitly involve the Part B and Part C programs in their ongoing implementation plans. "Partnerships at the state and local levels will ensure that: young children with disabilities and their families have meaningful access to early-learning programs; service providers that work with these IDEA programs have access to professional development opportunities; and state systems' efforts focus on all young children including those with disabilities," the letter states.

The organization also asks that the administration boost funding for IDEA, so that more families can access services.

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