MEA staff helps members navigate issues in special education

It’s an unconscionable stain on our nation’s history: Fewer than 40 years ago, many states had laws that actually forbid special needs students from attending public schools, including students who were deaf, blind or had developmental disabilities.

Until the Congress passed the first version of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, American public schools accommodated only 20 percent of these children with disabilities. About 1 million children with special needs had absolutely no access to public schools. An additional 3.5 million special needs children were “warehoused” out of sight of the general population, according to the National Council on Disability.

Thanks to progress made by educators and disability rights advocates, times have changed. More than 6 million students now receive public education through IDEA, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. That includes more than 222,000 special needs students in Michigan.

With greater access to special education comes a greater need for teachers and education support staff to be properly trained in special education issues. That’s why MEA provides assistance to members in addressing specific questions related to special education rules and services, including topics involving IDEA and Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) rights.

In addition to working with members on federal and state compliance, MEA provides training to both EA members and ESP members on special education issues as they arise on a case-by-case basis.

To learn more about special education training, contact Nancy Knight of the MEA’s Communication and Public Policy Department at (800) 292-1934 ext. 2963, or email her at