If Bill SB-399, which is currently being considered by the Virginia General Assembly, is voted into law, it will increase the amount and specify the types of services that schools provide to children with hearing impairments. I believe SB-399 is a redistributive policy because it mandates that resources which schools might use otherwise be used for students with hearing impairments. However, the bill may also have distributive and regulatory components. Personally I believe the policy types which my classmates and I have been studying do not have well-defined boundaries. Often one specific school policy, such as the bill mentioned, may have aspects of several different types of policies as defined by Fowler (2009) in our class’s textbook.
SB–399 would increase services for students with Hearing Impairments; however, when discussing this bill with several colleagues who have worked in the field of special education much longer than I, they pointed out that this bill asks schools to provide services without providing funding for such services. Specifically in many ways this bill represents an “unfunded mandate”. The bill may cause funds which would be used for needy students eligible for services in other disability categories to be diverted to fund services for students with hearing impairments. Overall serving students with hearing impairments is good; however, legislators should consider the entire special education program (and educational funding in general) before passing a bill which specifies services delivery for a single disability category. Specifically the bill, if passed, will have little impact in Appomattox at the present time where the population of students with hearing impairments is nil; however, in larger counties with signficantly larger HI populations the bill may have drastic funding effects.
I was surprised that some wording in the bill seemed congruent with standards which are already established. The bill mandates that schools consider “the specific communication needs” of students with hearing impairments. I thought school systems were already required to consider the ”communication needs” of students under IDEA. I thought the IDEA legislation required schools to consider “communication needs” of students, whether the students had hearing impairments or spoke a language other than English.
If SB-399 passes the General Assembly I will be curious to see its implementation in schools and the way in which it affects funding.