Feds call for more integrated preschool

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Inclusive Preschools

The Obama Administration released a draft policy statement (PDF) May 15, calling for greater inclusion of preschoolers receiving special education services.

“It is the Departments’ position that all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, where they are provided with appropriate support in meeting high expectations,” the proposal states.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts must place children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment according to their needs.

The five-page statement, a joint proposal by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, stressed a variety of factors holding back preschoolers with disabilities, including low expectations, segregated settings, and lack of comprehensive services to help them integrate with their peers.

Since the statement is a policy memo, it is meant to provide guidance, as opposed to creating binding regulations. Among their recommendations, the DOE and DHHS urge school districts to create and expand state-level agency taskforces, review current policies, improve data collection and modify resource allocations.

“Children with disabilities and their families continue to face significant barriers to accessing inclusive high-quality early childhood programs and too many preschool children with disabilities continue to receive special education services in separate settings,” the proposal states.