Webinar Recap: Moving Special Education Forward Together

WEBINAR RECAP

Did you miss our last webinar with CASE Executive Director Phyllis Wolfram? Well it’s not too late to catch up on what you missed. Even though the live presentation was on Friday, September 2nd, you can still access all the action-and-information-packed content via this recap, the video recording, the audio recording and webinar transcript . . . all below.

In this webinar Phyllis Wolfram discusses the current state of special education and what groups like the Council of Administrators of Special Education are doing to move it forward. She specifically discusses the recent Special Education Legislative Summit held in Washington DC and the briefs that CASE and the CEC put together to focus on the most critical issues.

If you care about special education, this is most definitely, something you won’t want to miss.

PRESENTER BIO

Phyllis Wolfram is the Executive Director for CASE, the Council of Administrators of Special Education and resides in Springfield, Missouri. She has worked in public education for 37 years. Phyllis’ administrative experience spans 29 years in the field of special education administration. She has been a local special education director in three different districts ranging in size from a small rural district to the largest urban district in the state of Missouri. She has experience in the area of gifted education, Section 504, ELL and early childhood education.

Phyllis served as the President of CASE from July 2018 to March 2020, and now acts as its Executive Director. She also served as the chair of the CASE Policy & Legislation Committee, CASE Ad Hoc Committee on IDEA Reauthorization, as a member of the CASE Task Force; Design for the Future, and also a member of the Board of Directors for the Council for Exceptional Children and the CEC IDEA Reauthorization Workgroup.

To connect with the presenter:

THE PRESENTATION

Every July, the CEC and CASE hold the Special Education Legislative Summit (SELS) in Washington DC. For the event, leaders from all over the country convene, both live and virtually, to move special education forward. The Summit includes Town Hall-style events where national leaders, policy experts and Capitol Hill veterans provide updated news and information about the key issues impacting special educators everywhere — including pending legislation, IDEA funding & appropriations, mental health, educator shortages and so much more. Armed with the most relevant information, delegations from all fifty states then proceed to meet with their Congressional leaders to advocate for meaningful change.

In this webinar, we are so lucky to have Phyllis Wolfram, the Executive Director of CASE, join us to report on the 2022 Special Education Legislative Summit, the overall state of special education, and how you can get involved in making it better. If you want to learn the latest in most important developments in special education, this is one event you won’t want to miss.

Phyllis’s amazing presentation focuses specifically on the following big ideas:

1. The state of Special Education and what it means for the professional educators within it.
2. The latest in Federal Law and how it impacts special education.
3. What organizations like the CEC and CASE are doing to move special education forward.
4. How to get involved in advocacy and making changes for special education.

Once she concludes the presentation, she segues into a lively and informative discussion with our own Jeremy Glauser. So even if you missed the “live presentation”, you can still get all of the benefit by watching or listening to the recording, or reading the transcript – all below.

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FULL WEBINAR TRANSCRIPT

Jeremy Glauser (00:00:00):
Hello everyone. And welcome to the webinar today. We’re so glad to have you join us as you get settled into Zoom. Hopefully you’ve got your cup of coffee, your notepad, your pen, because we are gonna be talking about moving special education forward together. I am Jeremy Glauser, the founder and CEO of Luma, and I am so glad to be joined by Phyllis Wolfram, who is the executive director for CASE today. We’re going to be learning a lot of wonderful updates. We’re gonna be talking about some incredibly important topics, so hopefully you can walk away fully enriched and ready to take action. <Laugh> Phyllis, let’s go ahead and take us to the next slide. Okay. I wanna tell you, I wanna tell you just a little bit about what to expect today.

Jeremy Glauser (00:00:55):
After a short introduction, we will have time with Phyllis who will be talking about how we can move forward together in special education. We’ll also spend time doing a Q&A and a and we’ll have a live discussion and we will take your questions throughout the webinar. We definitely encourage you to use the chat, to enter questions. We will get to those. Please do that. We also want you to know that you can turn on closed captions. There’s a, there’s a button at the bottom of zoom, and it will say CC. George also put a comment in the chat for those of you who need closed captioning. Let me tell you a little bit about eLuma, which is very much mission focused on helping kids achieve their potential. And that’s why we partner with Phyllis and CASE and so many amazing people who are also focused on the same mission and then delivering good content, good resources so that you can learn . . .

Jeremy Glauser (00:02:05):
you can grow, you can feel inspired, validated, or just get some day to day tactical ideas and tools that you need in your life, in your job. We’ve been around for over a decade. We contract with over 400 clinicians who deliver live online therapy with school systems. We are very excited as a team to have just passed the service to 33,000 students. And please follow us, engage with us. We want to engage with you, learn from you and help move this forward. You can see our Twitter handle as well as our Facebook page there. All right, enough about eLuma. Well, maybe just a little bit more <laugh> we do want to let you know about an exciting offer, a fun opportunity. We are always looking to engage with you, our, our, our partners in education, and there’s an opportunity to get a hundred dollars Amazon gift card, simply for having a consultation with our team.

Jeremy Glauser (00:03:11):
So please go to eLuma.com/consultation, or if you just go to eLuma.com, you’ll see a nice button at the top, right? And we, we really would love to engage with you. The promo code. This is eLuma webinars. Don’t forget that piece. And I think George, who is keeping our chat up to date – if you could also put that in there for the whole group, that would be great, George. So a little bit about this webinar series. This is the beginning of our special education webinar series, and we’re excited to invite lots of other guests who will talk on very pertinent, relevant topics, please register and come and join us. Even if you can’t join live, you’ll have an opportunity to view them afterward. We’ll send out the recording, we’ll send out the resources registering, get you signed up and on the distribution.

Jeremy Glauser (00:04:10):
So please come join us. We’re excited to be able to put this on for you. Now I wanna introduce Phyllis. Phyllis is a good friend, a mentor, an incredible leader, and there’s so much about Phyllis that I love. And I hope that you come to love what she has to share with you as well, because it will enrich your life. I know that she’s dedicated to doing that for special education in general today, Phyllis is the executive director for CASE that is the Council of Administrators of Special Education and has served as president in the past has worked in public education for 39 years, 29 of which were in administrative roles and has served in rural to the largest district in Missouri. And we were just talking before the webinar. Her team was as large as 400 at one point, and has seen a lot, has worked on with gifted education, 504, ELL early childhood, and has, has really volunteered and participated in a lot of ways, CASE policy and legislative legislation committees, the ad hoc committee on IDEA reauthorization, as a member of the CASE task force designed for the future and a member of the board of directors for the Council for
Exceptional Children.

Jeremy Glauser (00:05:38):
CEC, Phyllis has done a lot of great work. I remember when we were experiencing the signs of COVID 19 and how that might affect Phyllis was a go-to for our national leaders for information and for leadership in this particular area. I think what we have today is a lot to learn. So buckle up, add questions to the chat, and let’s learn from Phyllis today. Phyllis, please take us away.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:06:11):
Thank you, Jeremy. You’re too kind in your introduction and but the feeling’s mutual.

Jeremy Glauser (00:06:18):
All deserving.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:06:19):
Well, thank you. I love working with you with all your staff at eLuma. The best part about working with eLuma is the fact they have a heart for what they do. Jeremy is in this for the good, for the good of all of us and all of our students. And I, I can’t say enough about the work that you do and the passion that you have for what you do. So it’s a pleasure to be with you today. And in today’s presentation, we’re going to address some of the current state of affairs, things that are going on in, in special education that you need to be aware of some of the federal law and how it impacts special education how we partner with CEC in CASE we are a division of the Council of Exceptional Children.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:07:08):
I always say we are their largest division. Therefore I think we’re the best. Our administrators of course address every area of special education and as a school administrator. And I still, to this day, I’m a member of several divisions of the council, of our exceptional children. I stay connected with the
Division of Transition, Division of Learning Disabilities because I’ve been doing this a while. I get into the Pioneers Division, as well the Division of Early Childhood, because I wanna stay up to date, I wanna stay connected. So I’d really encourage you to look at the different divisions that you have an opportunity to join, not only as an administrator but as a teacher related service provider, instructional support they even now engage parents in the Council for Exceptional Children so that parents can access the resources that are available to special educators.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:08:02):
And then how you can get involved in advocacy and impacting change in special education. So stay with me as we go through all of this, I’m gonna give you hopefully some really good information. I am gonna talk a little bit today about our legislative summit, our three priorities that we went to Capitol Hill and, and said, here’s what we need as special educators across the nation. And we’ll get to that. But our summit was held on July 10th through the 13th. We’re there every year in July. And would ask you, you can go online. You can look at future dates, market on your calendar and come and join us next July to share your stories with your legislators on Capitol Hill. But I do have to tell you just a little bit about CASE as we get started. And our mission is to provide leadership, to advance the field of special education through professional learning policy and advocacy.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:08:55):
And hopefully every day, we’re looking at that mission statement here in the CASE office, and we’re saying, are we doing our job for you? And, and you can let us know if we’re not, cause we want you to hold us accountable. Our core values, visionary leadership, inclusive practices, engagement, and integrity. What we really wanna do is continue to look to the future. What is coming down from Washington DC, what is happening in our schools across the nation that we need to be prepared for? And look ahead, be inclusive in all of our practices to really engage our members and to do it with great integrity. So those are the core values that are really important to us. I want you to meet our staff because you’ll see these people present. You’ll see that we do 60 Minutes with Merna every month to get an update on what’s happening in Washington, DC. Myrna Mandlawitz is our CASE policy consultant.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:09:49):
If you engage with CASE at all, you’ll meet Debbie Magnifico, our CASE administrative assistant. That’s really her last name. I say to Debbie all the time, I need your last name so that I could be Phyllis Magnifico, wouldn’t that be a cool name? But Debbie is awesome. New CASE staff CASE has become visible. Over the last two years, we have been able to through some of our webinars and our conferences generate some additional revenue as a professional association, and we have two new staff members in the CASE office to help us further the work that we’re doing for our members and other leaders across the nation. Dr. Bridget Bright is our director of communication and membership. Dr. Vicky McNamara is our director of professional services. They started July 1st. So you’re gonna see some more great things coming out of the Council of Administrators of Special Education.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:10:46):
So before I go, I’m gonna skip to one more slide here and just give this little lesson in how things work in Congress and how we are working with the offices that implement the laws that Congress passes right now, we’re working with our 117th Congress. They were seated January of 2021 and on January of 23. And I think it’s January the third, the new Congress will be seated as the 118th Congress. And this fall in the November midterm elections you’ll have an opportunity to vote so that your voice is heard for the person that you want in office. And I would really encourage you to take a look at who’s on the ballot. What do they stand for? What are they doing in education? Ask those questions of them. You’re a constituent, you’re a voter and your voice is important.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:11:45):
That’s coming up. We’re gonna have a new Congress in January, the 118th Congress. So Congress passes laws, right? They passed the IDEA the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It was first passed in the early seventies when we had public law in 94, 142. And educators on this call will have heard that in all of your beginning, special education coursework. But once that law is passed within the US Department of Education, there’s the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, which is called OSERS because just like us every day in our classrooms and in special education, we have acronyms. So does the US Department of Education. And under the department of OSERS is OSEP the Office of Special Education Programs. This is the office that writes the regulations of the law that Congress passes that we’re implementing in our classrooms.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:12:42):
That next step down is your State Department of Education. Your State Department then is writing regulations to meet any additional state law to implement special education programs. And then you and your school district have a local compliance plan and your local compliance plan adheres to state regulations, which adheres to state law, which adheres to federal regulations, which adheres to federal law. So it’s this, this long list of things we do in special education to comply with, with all of that. And it’s important that you understand, because it’s important that you vote at the state level and that you vote at the national level for your US congressmen, your US senators, your US House of Representatives, as well as those state elected offices. So just before we get into the real advocacy that we were doing in July in Washington, DC, I was wanna give you a little bit of an update about what’s been happening lately.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:13:46):
And the first thing I wanna make you aware of is on May the sixth of this year, the US Department of Education announced their intent to strengthen and protect rights for students with disabilities. By amending the regulations implementing section 504, section 504 of the rehabilitation act. We write 504 plans in our schools for individuals with disabilities that require accommodations many times, there’s a big connection with special education and our special ed leaders are having to implement that law as well as the IDEA. It’s important that you know, that these laws have not been, or these regulations have not been amended in 45 years. So the office of civil rights, which is the office that implements and regulates this law will be looking to redo those regulations CASE has participated in a listening session by invitation with the office of civil rights.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:14:52):
And we’re actually gonna meet face to face in September in Washington, DC, with one of the assistant secretaries of OCR to say, here are the changes we believe need to take place. Here are the things that as educators we are advocating for. So CASE is out there working for you. I just wanna make you aware of how important that is to know what is happening with section 504. On July 19th, this year, we received new guidance on discipline, out of the Office of Special Education Programs. You need to stay real tuned to what’s happening in CASE – we’ll be talking about that on a webinar in September with Julie Weatherly, an attorney out of Alabama who does a lot of work with us. The Office of Special Education Programs is also developing some webinars and some guidance around the document that came out in CASE. We’ll be a part of looking and reviewing that initial webinar before it gets released to the entire public and having an opportunity to give O step some feedback.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:16:01):
Those things are important because CASE has become more and more visible. We want to carry your voice forward. We are being asked what needs to happen? What needs to change is your involvement in this organization, working at your state level and providing us feedback through your state leaders, even directly to us in the CASE office is important because we want to carry your voice forward. The other thing that I would just tell you to kind of be on the lookout for is we are still recovering some from the pandemic. Some of our school districts have received some complaints and the Office of Civil Rights is going in to say, are you following these laws? The laws that have been passed, but are you still providing those services? Did you provide the type of services that you should have been doing during the pandemic? You will see a lot of it coming out.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:16:58):
Just about every webinar that I’m on with someone out of the US Department of Education, they’re talking about the Los Angeles Unified School District. And that’s one of the largest, I think it’s the second largest school district in the nation. And they did undergo some investigation about, did they comply? Did they comply with the laws and the rules of IDEA throughout the pandemic? And they found that they had some areas where they weren’t quite up to speed. So they have, as a result of this investigation, they’re engaged in a settlement agreement. And it’s a lot of work for the Los Angeles Unified School District. I tell you this story to say, it’s important that you pay attention to the requirements of special education that we must follow as administrators and as teachers in our business.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:17:55):
And when those things need to change, and we need to be looking differently at how they should change, that’s where your advocacy comes into play. So I’m gonna talk now a little bit more specifically about advocacy and what we do at that level CASE has been advocating through our Hill visits on Capitol Hill for 20 years. And about eight years ago, the Council for Exceptional Children, our parent organization said, we wanna partner with you. Now I will tell the story. I know they wanted to partner with us because we were doing it right. We knew how to get there. We knew how to get the attention of our legislators. We were sharing our stories about what is happening in our local school districts. And they said, you guys are doing it right. We wanna partner with you. And we said, absolutely wanna partner with you because we, that brings more teachers to the table.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:18:50):
Our group has grown. We’ve had up to 300 people gathering, going up on Capitol Hill, educating and advocating for change, and advocating for the things that we need in our local school districts. There is a strategy around how you advocate, and that’s why we come together to learn about what we say. Here’s how we say it. Here’s how we get their attention. When we go up on Capitol Hill, one of those things is to narrow our focus. So we narrow, narrow our focus and what we wanna talk about and what you see on the screen right now are those three primary topics. We know that educator shortage is the issue right now across the nation that is critically impacting our schools in, in every state. The most recent information that I believe I read was 48 states have reported a critical shortage of educators as we’ve started. As we begin to start this school year, some haven’t started yet, but many of our schools have started across the nation.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:19:59):
Our second topic that we addressed with our congressmen was the issue of mental health and the needs that we have in our school district that have grown. They’ve always been there. They’ve always been great, but now we are seeing a greater need as a result of what we have experienced through the pandemic, the impact that it’s had on our families and our students, as well as our staffs and the third issue, no secret to anyone would be appropriations. We usually talk about this and use the word funding, but we have a law and funding is, as they’ve told us, up to 40%. We’ll talk a little bit more about it, but what we advocate for is not like more funding. What we wanna get to is the appropriations committees, because every year they’re appropriating money for education and for special education.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:20:57):
So we wanna tell them exactly what we need from year to year in appropriations. So we’ll talk a little bit more in depth about that, George. I know I’m kind of shifting gears and going in, but I’m wondering if there are any questions that maybe we would wanna, I know we’re gonna do Q&A at the end, but anything that we would wanna talk about or answer questions regarding the discipline or 504 or anything along those lines before we move into our advocacy specific advocacy information that we did in July on Capitol Hill.

George Dayton (00:21:33):
We haven’t had anything specific come up as of yet monitoring the chat as we speak, but okay. Wouldn’t use this as an invitation to everyone. As you have questions, please put them in the chat.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:21:46):
Sounds good. Sounds good. All right. I’ll keep going. So educator shortage, you know, that some of the data that we gathered to share with our congressmen on Capitol Hill, what we know as we, as I just said, 48 states have reported staff shortage. Some of the data that we’ve looked at is high school students’ cite pay as the number one reason for disinterest in education. So we know that pay is an issue across the nation. The debt load is considerably higher given the starting salary of our teachers. So all of us have come out of college, possibly with debt, with loans. We know that more and more across the nation, our students are coming out of college. However, given the starting salary of teachers versus the starting salary of some other professions, we’re seeing that that debt load is heavier on our teachers. We’ve got to do something about that.

George (00:22:50):
Hey, Phyllis, we do have a comment. It’s not a question per se, but it’s maybe something that you could speak to that’s in line with this. Sandra Singleton says, I know that the shortage of SLP is due in large part to the serious difficulties we have experienced while trying to successfully complete our daily work. The abuse of SLPs by some school districts makes me hesitant to return to school. I think that’s a recurring theme that we’re seeing a lot of in addition to the pay issue. And maybe that’s something that you can elaborate on.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:23:22):
Mm-Hmm <affirmative> Sandra, thank you so much for that comment. I think that that is an issue as we continue to advocate, these are the kind of things that we wanna hear, because I think when you talk about serious difficulties we’ve experienced while trying to successfully complete our daily work I guess if I were to say, what would that serious difficulties be, maybe caseload loads too high using you to maybe cover classes when teachers have been absent, I’ve heard some of those stories as well. I also think about some of the behavioral issues that we’re dealing with with students. I actually read an article just not too long ago where a teacher, actually, was a paraprofessional who could work at McDonald’s for the same pay as a paraprofessional, and not be hit and bitten by students. And I, and I hear that loud and clear. So we continue to carry that voice forward, Sandra of your comments to say, these are what our teachers are dealing with. And as administrators, we need to then look very closely at how we’re using our staff, the resources we’re providing our staff. So I hear you loud and clear and would agree with you that those are issues in a number of our schools.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:25:00):
Again, here I’ve said it. Yeah. I, and I actually had it, in my PowerPoint. 48 states reported that was in the 20-21 school year. I don’t think maybe I have that exact number for the start of this school yet, as some schools haven’t started, I will tell you though. (And I have linked in the PowerPoint if, if George posts the PowerPoint on the website that just this week.) Actually two days ago, we had an announcement out of the White House to address the issue of educator shortage to strengthen the teaching profession, to help schools fill vacancies. And for the first time that I can remember in my history, at least to this level, to this depth the White House is partnering with some private industry to really help. I think re-recruiting teachers to the field of education.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:26:01):
They have joined in a partnership with Zip Recruiter, a partnership with Indeed, to do some job fairs and also a partnership with Handshake. Handshake is online where students in colleges and universities can be members, I think automatically at a number of those institutions of higher education to really encourage them to go into the field of education. So this initiative is new. I would really encourage you to check that out and take a look and read what the Biden and Harris administration is offering up in the direction that they would like to go. They’ve also talked about the pay for teachers and that we need a more competitive wage. I haven’t read the full report to see if there are additional initiatives for how they might assist local school districts in doing that. They do talk a lot about the TARP funds and the SR funds that have come through and how school districts can use some of that funding and then expand high quality programs that prepare and support our teachers.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:27:13):
So that would be hopefully putting more of those funds or some additional fundings into higher education. That’s what we hope for. So I will tell you all about educator shortage. We do have initiatives coming out of the White House. What we know is the White House does not create laws. The White House does not appropriate funds that happen in our House of Representatives and in the Senate. And so, as we vote and our voices are heard, we must carry these issues forward to those that we vote into office and tell them exactly what we need. If we see things coming out of the White House, we want to say, please do more for this initiative. Please do more. If there are bills that need to be passed or even created, you can have that conversation with your Congressman. And they come to your US congressmen come to your home state, they have offices there and you can visit with them when they’re at recess.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:28:27):
They just should have been in your state the month of August, because Congress had a huge recess. Everyone goes home and they meet with their constituents within their states. Let’s go on to just another piece. And Sandra, this might fit in a little to what you were saying. The Council for Exceptional Children did a study. They did a big survey on the state of the profession. They had done this about 20-25 years ago. And they feel it was important that they look at that again. And they did a new survey and out of their survey, they found what teachers need to be successful. And here’s where the teacher responds. We take this information, we share it so that people will know what teachers need adequate resources to meet IEP requirements for my students. That’s what teachers told us, smaller class sizes and smaller caseloads. This is a big one. Administrators who support the IEP process. So we’re listening to our teachers. We share this information when we advocate on Capitol Hill to say, here’s what our teachers are telling us. We need your help in making this happen.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:29:49):
The fourth one, what teachers need most in addition to those top three: knowledgeable paraeducators, a principal who is a strong instructional leader, professional development, reduced paperwork, access to related service providers, access to technology and access to general ed curriculum. These were the things that teachers told us. This is the information that we take and advocate to our Congressman on Capitol Hill. So we have direction. We have data, we have some research that says, here’s what we need. Here’s why we need it next. I wanna talk just a little bit about mental health, approximately as we, well, as I said earlier, we know this has always been a need in our schools, but now we’re seeing it more than ever as a result of what our country has just been through in the last two, two and a half years. But approximately 20% of children are experiencing significant mental, emotional, or behavioral symptoms that would qualify them for psychiatric diagnosis.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:31:02):
Children, most likely to access mental health services in an educational setting only are those receiving public insurance, living in low income neighborhoods from racial, ethnic, and minority groups. But what we know is we need lots of people accessing those services, not just a select few, nearly 70% of youth with mental health problems do not receive the treatment that they need in a 2019 report from the substance abuse and mental health services administration. It indicates that 60% of the nearly 4 million, 12 to 17 year olds who reported a major depressive episode in the past year did not receive any treatment whatsoever.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:31:54):
We also know I didn’t include that data. I, I’m not sure I had the most recent, but we also know there’s been an increased rate in suicide and suicide attempts. We see a lot of that information that comes from our school, psych associations as they track that data and that research. So we take this data, we go to Capitol Hill, you’re gonna hear me say this time and time again, it’s so important that we share the research. We share the data and we share our needs with our congressmen. The next, the third issue that we took was appropriations and funding. So here’s what we know about special education: it’s federally mandated. We must implement special education programs in our local public schools by law.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:32:48):
Congress promised to fund this law when it was originally passed at 40%. 40% is what the federal government should be sharing with us to implement the laws that they passed. We do have a local responsibility and a state responsibility to educate students, all students, including students with disabilities. So 40% when Congress first passed the law thought that was a reasonable amount for the mandates that they were requiring. However, special education programs across the nation in our local public schools are funded at approximately 13%. So where’s the rest of the money coming from local and state contributions. We continue to advocate that Congress fund IDEA at the 40% that they promised. When we had the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act under president Obama, there was a two year period where additional funds were released to special education.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:33:58):
And the figure that many of us had calculated across the nation. We received, we believe close to 40%. We calculated it at about 38%. So we enjoyed that money, but for two years only, and then it wasn’t there any longer. So we had to be very careful about how we spent that is why we continue to advocate for ongoing continuous funding. And we look at the health side, the house appropriations committee in contacting those legislators, the Senate appropriations committee, and saying, here’s the money that we need. Here’s what was promised. There is a bill in Congress called the Full Funding Act right now that has not been passed. We continue to advocate for additional co-signers to come on, so that to come onto that bill so that we can get some additional funding for special education.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:34:58):
I do wanna tell you now how you can get involved and you can get more information. So I talked about those three issues. There is some detailed information. I’m gonna show you a screenshot of them here in just a minute. You can look on specialeducationlegislativesummit.org, and our issue briefs are located there. That will give you some detailed information. You can take those, you can email them to your Congressman. You can mail them to your Congressman. You can share that information with them. If you wanna write them a letter to advocate for assistance in addressing the issue of educator shortage, the issue of mental health or the issue of appropriations and additional funding in special education. This is what our issue briefs look like. This is the one on educator shortage. It’s two pages long. We do it front and back.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:35:58):
And we hand that to our legislators. When we go into their office on Capitol Hill, this will talk even more specifically about some of the data and the research, the research that has been done in a particular area of educator shortage. And then what we ask members of Congress to do is we ask them to invest $300 million in part D, which is the personnel prep programs for special education. We ask them to invest and that should be $300 million into the center for excellence program and additional into teacher quality partnerships, a billion dollars there. The next issue brief was mental health. Again, we talk about some of the fast facts and what we’re dealing with as far as behavioral and mental health issues in our schools. And we then said, here’s what we want members of Congress to do. We want them to support the bills that include additional funding to help us meet the needs of students as well as any legislation that would provide more services to our schools and mental health.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:37:13):
This is the issue brief on appropriations. And we get right down to business with the IDEA part B and saying, here’s the amount of money we need to bring us up to level funding at 40% part C are the early childhood programs birth to age three part B are the three and four year old programs. And our K12 programs then part D again is the personnel prep. And then we have some additional appropriations levels with school-based mental health professionals, the center for special education research, because we need our data. Our data says here’s where we are. Here’s what we need. Here’s where we need to be, help us get there. And then the gifted and talented programs that we usually ask for additional funding in that area as well. So the issue briefs, again, you can find at the specialeducationlegislativesummit.org, there is also a brief that is just a brief overview of what the IDEA is.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:38:22):
And some facts about that as we go into offices whether that be at the state level or the federal level, many times our representatives or senators may not know the specifics around this particular federal law, that you are required in your local school district to pass. This is a quick, fast fact sheet that you can pull down off the website, specialeducationlegislativesummit.org. You can copy all of these. You can have this information. You could even share this information. If you’re a teacher or support staff with your principal if they’re not aware of all the requirements of special education, so some great resources for you to engage with now, here’s how you can take action today. You could go to the CASE legislative action center on our website@casecec.org. You can right now text CASE acts to this number, and it will have you sign up for our action center to address these three issues, tell Congress to fund special education programs, address educator shortages, and tell Congress to support funding for mental health services in our schools.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:39:51):
So if you, in fact, text CASE acts to 5, 4, 5, 7, you can sign up, you do have to put your name and your address in there. And then your US Congressman – Senators and House of Representatives will pop up and you can send to them a letter that’s already populated. You can change that letter and add a personal note to it, and it will go to push a button. And that letter will be sent, advocating, telling them that you need their support in these areas. One of the things that you need to know is they pay attention. They count how many of my constituents, how many of my voters want me to fund special education programs when they see that number go up, that helps them determine how they will vote on any bills that will determine how they vote on the full funding act. The bill that is in Congress right now, I think that takes us down to some Q&A Jeremy. That concludes my presentation. I hope I’ve covered as much as I possibly could in that time period. You know, we spent a full day in Washington, DC advocating and learning and educating ourselves on these issues in order to be prepared to meet with the staff. And many of us got to meet with our Congressman face to face, but if not, we met with some of the brighter people about education, which was their education staff people. But I’ll stop there. 

Jeremy Glauser (00:41:39):
It was such a great experience this year, because for the previous two years, we weren’t able to go physically to the Hill and I’ve been going for a number of years. And it has been such an incredibly eye-opening opportunity to sit down with staffers, talk about education policy and see how many issues are on their list beyond just what we’re talking about. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And you know, I think that to your point, when the numbers tick up, when we’re expressing our interest, and we’re talking to them about these issues, it helps bring it to top of mind. It helps remind them how important and how impactful it really is. So thank you for sharing and you’re welcome. I hope everyone here takes the action that you’ve called us to. I know I have, I’ve gone to the action center. I’ve reached out to my representatives. And as a matter of fact, as a result of all these different steps, I’m gonna be meeting with Congressman Owens here in the next few weeks. So just to go over what matters to, to me, what we’re seeing, what he’s seeing.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:42:50):
Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And I think the most important, the, the most important thing that you’re doing, Jeremy, that we have really encouraged. So many people to do is to develop that relationship with your member of Congress, with your Senator to say not just one time you go, you don’t just go up to the office one time in July, and you say, here’s what we need. What they need to do is hear from you regularly. It is making that contact consistently and building a relationship. What do we know about people who we know about our kids? How do they learn best when they have a relationship? How do our congressmen learn best when they have a relationship with us and we can continue to feed them information, and we build that trust, right? We build a trust to say here’s what we need. Here’s what I do. I know you, you know me, and I’m being honest with you. I need this in my schools. You need to vote for this. And that’s how we, that’s how we impact change.

Jeremy Glauser (00:43:53):
I’ve seen it firsthand. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, we’ve talked about some incredible things. How do we address educator shortages? How do we make sure that mental health services are, are funded and programmed into schools? We’ve talked about appropriations. We have some questions that I’d like to pose, and then lead into a conversation here, Phyllis, with you. I want to give another plug to those of you listening. If you have a question, as we discuss these topics, please throw ’em in the chat. Really, truly, honestly, this is part of how the conversation happens, and you can influence the conversation with your questions. The first one I wanna pose is from Justin. And he asks, can you speak to how the dyslexia advocacy movement is changing policies and instructional practices and special education? I think I just whistled outta my mouth there for a second.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:44:51):
That’s right.

Jeremy Glauser (00:44:51):
I got it. But special education. What related changes might be on the horizon?

Phyllis Wolfram (00:44:56):
Mm-Hmm <affirmative> well, what we know that’s a great question, Justin, what we know is there is a huge movement in the, that movement is coming. I apologize if you hear the sirens, evidently there is a fire near my office.

Jeremy Glauser (00:45:13):
Oh, hopefully it’s not you.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:45:14):
Well, I hope it’s going on past. Okay. <Laugh> there we go. <Laugh> right. So but, but what we know is there is an organization called decoding dyslexia and they have established I wanna say chapters, or they have organized in almost every state and they are advocating very heavily for screening and evaluation of students to see if they are dyslexic or qualify for special education through dyslexia. What we know is there’s a lot of misunderstanding about dyslexia across the nation. We look at federal law and under federal law under the eligibility that we talk about learning disabilities. It does state dyslexia. Although the misunderstanding with educators is, well, we don’t do dyslexia. But we do learning disabilities. Well, dyslexia is a form of a learning disability, and we have to do more education around that. So what has happened in some states is they have been very successful in partnering proactively, strategically and positively with decoding dyslexia to work together on a good law because what’s happening in most states is they’re developing state law around dyslexia. And in some states it has been a very collaborative effort in other states. It has been more adversarial. So it it’s, it’s kind of all over the board right now, but we are seeing that impact. We’re seeing some significant changes taking place in state law around dyslexia. I hope I answered that question.

Jeremy Glauser (00:47:09):
I think you did, Justin, if you have a follow up, put it in the chat and we’d love to keep talking about it. This actually I wanna go back to the 504 discussion that you brought up early in your presentation and early in may, we heard for the first time that our country is revisiting the 504 regulations. And I’d like to have a deeper conversation about that and maybe see what you’re seeing, share what I’m seeing. What do you think? How do you think those regulations will be revised? Does it include things like depression, anxiety, or anything else? Do you have any insights that you can share with us?

Phyllis Wolfram (00:47:57):
Mm-Hmm <affirmative> well, it currently, currently can include those areas and, and we should be, as educators looking at are students eligible under 504 because of something that is impacting a major life function. And many times we know that depression and anxiety can, and students could be eligible for that. Now what we think we know some people are advocating for changes for 504 are more regulatory requirements. We have a concern that if we have more and more regulatory requirements and more and more paperwork under 504, that we will drive more and more teachers out of the field of education.

Jeremy Glauser (00:48:55):
I agree because we know 504 doesn’t have specific appropriations.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:49:00):
Exactly. No funding, no funding,

Jeremy Glauser (00:49:02):
No funding. And so if we <laugh>, you know, we think, okay, for me, it’s, it’s very important to know what is changing about 504. And I sure hope that as we have these conversations and those who are involved are ensuring that appropriations or funding is part of the dialogue. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> because we definitely don’t wanna just ask more from our educators, but not fund or appropriate for it. Right. I think I cut you off. Please continue your thoughts.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:49:35):
Our, our biggest concern is, and, and you didn’t cut me off. No, though, you, you made a, an extraordinarily valid point that when we meet in September with the office of civil rights, we will reiterate. And that is the lack of funding that accompanies this federal law, this federal mandate that school districts must implement, but we have a concern based on what we’re hearing and, and how things sometimes roll out from the US Department of Education that they wanna make this a mini IDEA. And so much of the guidance that we get right now says, well, if you do evaluation procedures like you do under IDEA, then you’ll be fine. If you do a service plan or you develop an IEP under 504, well, you’ll be fine. Well, that’s not required in order for us to implement this law because it is a law that is it’s a non-discrimination law. So it’s about providing accommodations, not necessarily direct services, though. You could provide direct services under that law. Some people think you don’t have to, or you, or you can’t, but you can. So what we need around 504 is more specific clarification, not regulatory requirements. And that’s what we’re advocating for at this point.

Jeremy Glauser (00:50:59):
I really love that, Phyllis. I agree. And, and if there’s, if there’s more that we can do to provide that clarification around what it is and what it means. Cause I get the question of, well, does 504 cover accommodations in depression or anxiety. And I think you cleared that up very nicely today. Yes, this, this also begs a question around mental health services or school-based mental services and how those will be funded. And we’ve seen a lot of, of really great movement in this area. There’s funding that we can access through grant programs, ESSER, even the most recent Safer Communities Act of 2022 earmarks a billion dollars in the coming years. And even still there’s a pending cliff that I think causes hesitancy on on many school districts, decision making process, or even on our side and, and a long term funding source that we can build programming around that gives more specific guidance to expectations. And I’ve heard some talk about, well, is that going to come through an IDEA like authorization? Or is that coming through 504? And the honest truth is we don’t know right now, but what I am very encouraged by is that folks at NASP are at the table having conversations around that folks from ASCA are having conversations around that. I know that CASE is at the table having conversations around how do we ensure long-term funding for mental health services? And I’m curious if you have any commentary around that.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:52:55):
I do as a matter of fact.

Jeremy Glauser (00:52:58):
We’d love to hear it.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:52:59):
I know, I think that you know, a couple, two major points, what we know is that educators are in our classrooms to teach and to teach. We kind of think about academics and, and we kind of go that direction. That’s what we’re trained to do, right? To, to teach subject areas. But we also have to be aware of what the social and emotional needs are of all of our students, but we also need partners to address those specific needs. I’m not a trained counselor. It would be it, it would be in really poor form for me to try and assist someone who might be dealing with depression or anxiety. I don’t have training in that and I could do more harm than good. I could give them my best mama talk, you know, but that’s probably not gonna help the situation in the long run mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Phyllis Wolfram (00:53:56):
So I think there are, there are some really strong models across the nation of partnerships with schools and behavioral healthcare facilities. There is a really a great model. And I do have to brag a little bit here in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri with an organization called Borough Behavioral Healthcare. And they are a certified community behavioral healthcare center, which means they’re funding is a little bit different because of federal legislation that was passed. They have increased over the last two years that this particular behavioral healthcare facility has hired over 500 new staff members to work in schools and the schools have opened their doors. That’s another thing schools have to do. They have to welcome in their partners to come and work with students. One of the things that I think I know firsthand as a special educator and a special ed educator, who worked with students with behavioral needs is until we get behavioral under control kids’ brains are not in a state to where they can learn academics. And we do have to tend to that first and foremost in our situation. So as you can see, I have a lot to say on that topic and I could probably

Jeremy Glauser (00:55:13):
I love the passion,

Phyllis Wolfram (00:55:16):
And I think we have to find the experts to come and partner with us.

Jeremy Glauser (00:55:19):
Yes, yes. And, and I, Justin has a very related question, has the Biden Harris, FY 22 investment school, psychologists, counselors, nurses, and social workers led personnel or sorry, led to increased support personnel being hired nationwide mm-hmm <affirmative> I don’t have specific data on that. Justin. I think that part of it is we are still in the process of implementing some of those new funding opportunities. I think it’s also noteworthy that recently California announced a plan investing 4.7 billion into their infrastructure. And you can go read that if you Google governor Newsome’s mental health plan, and you can find more details, but Phyllis, what, what experience or comments do you have on the, the outcomes since some of these investments are being made? Mm-Hmm

Phyllis Wolfram (00:56:21):
<Affirmative> I, I think, think you’re right in that we don’t have that data. What I, what I can tell you that I hear from our administrators across the nation in some pockets, there, there is, there is change occurring. Some of that a result of some of the Sr funding that came through during the pandemic. We know a lot of that was put into some infrastructure and changes, which we know a number of our public schools across the nation needed. I know that there are some pockets where partnerships have been made with institutions of higher education to do alternative roads to certification or fast track to certification. We have grown our own programs that are happening in education. I would hope that those are happening with school psychs and counselors and nurses and social workers as well. But I don’t think we have the data to see yet exact research, exact numbers of how that’s been impacted.

Jeremy Glauser (00:57:24):
It is good that the White House brought private partners into the Oval Office and had those conversations. I know you and many other colleagues were on a call with the White House recently. And George, why don’t we share that Press Release from the White House as a resource for this group, because it is hot off the press. It just came out within the past two days. And it talks about private partner strategies. It talks about building the pipeline investing in, in competitive living wages for teachers and specialized instruction instructional providers. And so my only other comment on this would be that we study this a lot at eLuma and where the gaps are. There is a very large gap with speech and language pathologists and occupational therapists. Unfortunately, the shortages in those specialized fields pale and comparison to those in the mental health side of the house to the tune of three times larger than where we see in the SLP and OT shortage gaps.

Jeremy Glauser (00:58:37):
Laurie VanderPloeg, the former director of OSEP – and I know one of Phyllis’s good friends as well, recently came and did a presentation. And we have over 40,000. This is per report that she referenced over 40,000 openings in our schools today and nearly 160,000 under qualified professionals in our schools today. So I know that that’s just accentuating the gap and the problem that we’re trying to address, and what I’m trying to communicate is that it is positive that we see the investments being made, that conversations are, are had at the highest levels of our governmental leadership. And I believe that people are taking this very seriously from pipeline to classroom, to retention mm-hmm <affirmative>. And it’s going to take private public and a whole community partnership to address this. And I know we’re at time and maybe we’ll close with a closing statement here.

Jeremy Glauser (00:59:43):
We didn’t get to elevate the profession, but I just wanna say that all of us in this room today and who are listening to this presentation and, and webinar have an opportunity to influence the dialogue around the aspirations to be an educator, a therapist, or an administrator. Unfortunately, there’s a negative rhetoric in many of the articles that we read and many of the reports that we hear, and I think it’s time that we lead from the front, that we change the rhetoric in our local communities, in our homes and in ourselves, because we need teacher professions and administrative possess professions to be something that young people and old people aspire to.

Phyllis Wolfram (01:00:30):
And I think from an advocacy perspective, Jeremy, you hit the nail on the head. We definitely need to elevate the profession by telling the good stories that are happening in our schools today. And if you’re on this call and you’re working with students, you’re working with teachers, send a great story today to one of your, or to all of your congressional offices offices and tell them the good things that are happening in public education today. They need to hear the good things that you’re doing. Too many times, they only hear the bad. And that’s part of the story that everyone needs to hear and invite them to come to your classroom, invite them, invite them every month to come to your classroom or to come to your school. If you’re an administrator, if you haven’t and, and, and, and if you keep doing it and they keep hearing from you, they’ve gotta come and see the good things you’re doing. And not only the good things you’re doing, but the things you need to keep doing all those good things.

Jeremy Glauser (01:01:33):
I love it. Phyllis, thank you so much. I wanna, I know we’re just a couple minutes over time, but I wanna wrap up by letting you know, we have two webinar series, two paths, one for MTSS and mental health, one for special education today, you’re participating in one of our, well in our first webinar of the special education series on September 14th, we are very excited to have Dr. Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach to come and join us in the second webinar of the MTSS and mental health series, go to eLuma.com/webinars to find more details and register. Then the following week, we will have the second webinar of this special education series. And we’re very excited to have Mitchell Samet join us. That is on September 22nd at 1:00 PM Eastern standard time. Again, same place go to eluma.com/webinars to find out more. And for those of you who want to learn more, come join the conversation. Please consult with us. You will get a hundred dollars Amazon gift card for scheduling a consultation and using the eLuma Webinars promotional code. Take action today in, in several different ways, schedule a consultation, go and make sure that you sign up with the CASE action center, contact your local reps and your national reps. We wanna thank you for being here and we’re excited to continue engaging with you as we move forward. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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George Dayton

George Dayton

George Dayton is the Director of Marketing & Business Development at eLuma Online Therapy. He earned a Bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University as well as a Master's Degree in Business Administration from the Woodbury School of Business. Mr. Dayton has spent the larger part of his career developing, producing and distributing filmed content for kids and families ( including the award-winning remake of the film Where the Red Fern Grows for Buena Vista Home Entertainment). In more recent years, he has worked on ventures more closely related to children's welfare and education. He served as one of the founding members of Kidnected World, the Student Orphan Aid Program, and also helped launched the Autism Initiative for Vivint Gives Back. Mr. Dayton is passionate about eLuma and its cause, and hopes to help find new ways in which the company can partner with schools to maximize student outcomes!