The Wall Street Journal Reports on Record Surge in Special Education Enrollment, Straining U.S. Schools

July 08, 2024

Pandemic Disruptions and Reduced Stigma Drive Increase in Autism and Other Diagnoses

A Wall Street Journal article highlights the recent surge in special education enrollments, driven by pandemic disruptions and reduced stigma, leaving U.S. schools struggling to meet the needs of a record 7.5 million students requiring these services. This increase, now comprising 15.2% of the public school population, includes a notable rise in autism diagnoses alongside other conditions like speech impairments and ADHD. Despite the growing demand, schools face significant staffing shortages and budget constraints, exacerbated by the expiration of federal COVID relief aid. Special education teachers report increased mental health issues and extreme behaviors among students, such as hitting staff and throwing furniture, necessitating more support like personal aides. States like Texas have seen a dramatic increase in special education numbers following changes in identification policies. The article points out that the situation underscores the urgent need for more resources and better staffing to ensure that students with disabilities receive the support they need for their long-term success amidst a backdrop of rising costs and federal funding shortfalls.

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