Sens. Cano, Gallo and DiMario call for immediate IEP reform
STATE HOUSE – Sens. Sandra Cano, Hanna M. Gallo and Alana M. DiMario are calling for immediate individualized education program (IEP) reform following a troubling report detailing the failure to provide IEPs to dozens of young students in the Providence Public School System that are mandated by federal law.
This week, the Senate Education Committee heard testimony on legislation (2023-S 0180) introduced by Senator DiMario which would bring significant changes to how IEPs are developed and provided to students in Rhode Island.
In recognition of the growing issue of the specialized teacher shortage, last year the Senate passed several pieces of legislation addressing specialized and early education, such as creating a new Office of Early Childhood Development and Learning (2022-S 2678A), the Early Educator Investment Act (2022-S 2235) and a bill to create five Early Learning Hubs across Rhode Island (2022-S 2679A).
“Unacceptable is not a strong enough word for this situation, and this is one of the top priorities for the Senate Education Committee because no child deserves what is happening to these kids. This serious problem is only going to get worse as we see the educational and social impacts of the pandemic continue to appear, so this situation needs to be rectified immediately,” said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.
“As a speech language pathologist, my heart breaks for these children who are not receiving the support they need to thrive and grow. Every single day of specialized education that is missed by these children poses a significant risk of exacerbating their issues. Understaffing should never be an excuse for leaving children behind in the developmental process. Attracting specialized early educators is a long-term process, and the Senate has introduced several bills in the past to address this very serious issue. Solving the problem of being unable to recruit and retain specialized educators has been, and will continue to be, a top priority for the Senate,” said Senator Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), former Chair of the Senate Education Committee and current Vice-Chair of the committee.
“Some of our state’s most vulnerable children are being failed, and it is not right or fair. The bill I introduced seeks to implement much-needed reform in the IEP process, but we also have to ensure that our schools have the necessary resources to care for ALL children. These children are running out of time and no adult should rest until these students are provided with the vital educational services that they require,” said Senator DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown, New Shoreham).
At the committee meeting, held on March 8, all three legislators heard heartbreaking testimony from concerned and frustrated parents who are doing everything in their power to acquire the specialized educational services that their children are entitled to by law, only to be met with inaction, lack of communication and more importantly, their children not receiving the care and services that they need and deserve.