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DoDEA Awarded Additional Funding For Special Education

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Jan. 16, 2003 – The Department of Defense Education Activity asked for and will receive an additional $56.6 million to improve special education programs for its students with disabilities.

The money will begin flowing in fiscal 2004 and be parceled over the next six years.

The department awarded the money after DoDEA, armed with a survey by a focus group of parents, teachers, school administrators and military representatives, cited a need for additional staffing, training and the purchase of equipment for special education students, said Elizabeth Middlemiss, the activity's associate director and principal deputy for education.

"We look each year to see the curricular needs in all of the curriculum areas," she said. "We look at math, language arts and social studies to see if our schools have enough materials and adequate equipment to carry out a strong educational program.

"There are times, though, when our budget does not include the things that we need to move it to the next level of support. While we think we have exemplary programs, we also see that there are needs," she added.

After a year of monitoring, interviewing and observing the special education programs of more than 30 stateside and overseas schools, the focus group presented DoDEA and the Defense Department with recommendations and objectives that included:

  • Provide additional special education professionals to help with student evaluations, record-keeping and testing to allow teachers more time to teach students.

  • Provide additional man-hours and workdays to allow special education paraprofessionals more time to spend with special and regular education teachers before and after the student school day.

  • Increase training and professional development for special-needs educators, regular education classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and parents.

  • Purchase curriculum materials for special education students that focus on areas of reading for elementary and middle school students with disabilities. Also, purchase functional curriculum materials for students with moderate to severe disabilities.

  • Purchase specialized and adaptive equipment such as standing tables, motorized changing tables, and special equipment to physically support students with moderate- to-severe disabilities in standing, sitting and movement.

Middlemiss said money would also be used to help make parents more aware of the various programs available to special education students. Special education students make up about 10 percent of the population of DoDEA's 220 schools worldwide.

She said the additional money awarded for special education in the 2003-04 school year can be used only for that purpose. Over the next year, she said, DoDEA will work with teachers, area education chiefs, school superintendents and officials to design training programs for special education teachers.

Middlemiss cautioned that special education parents will not see immediate results from the additional funding. "But as we look ahead and plan all of our other programs during the next school year, our parents and students shall be seeing the benefits," she said.

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