HDESD EI/ECSE students

It’s time to step up for children with special education needs

The United States is experiencing a significant increase in the number of children being identified with special education needs. In Central Oregon, the early childhood special education student population has increased by 10% in the past year alone and physician referrals for services have more than doubled in the last six months. This shift is largely driven by an increase in developmental screenings designed to make early intervention services available to families. While outcomes for children receiving these services are striking, funding has remained largely unchanged in Oregon since 2007. At the same time, the cost of providing early intervention and early childhood special education programs has risen significantly over the past several years.

Early intervention is a game-changer

This shortage of early childhood special education funding is particularly puzzling when you look at the big picture. In Central Oregon, nearly 20% of students who receive early intervention no longer need special education services by age three. Recently, we watched 95% of a cohort of Central Oregon speech articulation students meet or exceed state reading standards by the third grade. The long-term impact on both student success and the cost of education is impossible to ignore. While there is absolutely no question that these programs have a profound impact on the lives and futures of our children, they have been underfunded for years. It’s time for all of us to step forward and advocate for this critical work, so we can give our educators the resources they need to help our children succeed.

Asking for more support

Our High Desert Education Service District is leading an effort to request a substantial increase in funding for Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE) in Oregon. We provide EI/ECSE services to all eligible children in Central Oregon as well as four rural counties in other parts of the state. To do this, we’ve joined forces with former Deputy Superintendent of Public Education Rob Saxton and other education partners, including the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts, the Oregon School Board Association, and the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators. Community support and advocacy will only help further our cause. If you would like more information, I welcome your calls (541-693-5602) and emails (john.rexford@hdesd.org).

I’m honored to work with the High Desert Education Service District’s team of highly skilled special education experts. They provide exceptional early childhood developmental support for children birth to 5 years of age (prior to kindergarten) through screening, evaluation, and specially designed instruction for young children with special needs in Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson Counties.