(TRENTON) – With the goal to help special education students compensate for significant educational disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday approved legislation to extend eligibility for special education services to students who will turn 21 during the current and upcoming two school years for an additional year.
Currently, students with disabilities are eligible to receive services until they are 21 years old. However, when schools transitioned to remote and hybrid learning in response to the pandemic, special education students lost access to critical services like specialized reading instruction, in-class support, and assistive technology.
This bill (A-5366) would allow students who turn 21 during the 2020-2021, 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years to remain in school and receive services for an additional year.
The measure’s sponsors, Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington) and John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris) released the following joint statement:
“Every student has felt the impacts of a year of disruption and isolation. This is particularly true for special education students who thrive on routine and structure.
“Students with special needs often benefit from hands-on learning, something that doesn’t translate well in a virtual setting. It’s been difficult to help students meet the goals outlined in their Individual Education Plans, and as a result many are experiencing delays in learning.
“Extending educational services to students who would have otherwise ‘aged out’ during the pandemic will help account for a year of academic and social learning delays, as well as prepare them to transition to the next phase of their lives.”