Earlier transition services for students with disabilities advanced

Senators gave first-round approval April 6 to a bill that would require Nebraska public schools to provide transition services to each student with a developmental disability two years sooner.

Sen. Lynne Walz
Sen. Lynne Walz

Schools currently are required to provide a coordinated set of activities that help prepare qualified students for life after high school — including postsecondary education, vocational training, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living and community participation — beginning when they turn 16.

Under LB527, sponsored by Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz, schools would begin providing transition services to those students when they turn 14.

Walz said most Nebraska school districts already start providing such services to students at age 14, but some districts in rural areas do not.

“Those two years could make all the difference in creating meaningful individual transition plans,” she said.

In the bill’s fiscal note, the state Department of Education indicated the need to hire additional staff to serve more students, at a cost of $141,000 in fiscal year 2021-22 and $146,500 in FY2022-23.

Walz said that expenditure would make Nebraska eligible for approximately $1.3 million in federal funds for transition services over those two years.

“Currently, we are not taking full advantage of the federal tax dollars available to us,” Walz said, “and with this small investment, we could greatly improve the lives of special needs students in our rural areas.”

Senators voted 37-0 to advance LB527 to select file.

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