- For the next two school years, New York students with disabilities who turned 21 during the 2021-22 school year will be able to continue receiving special education services until those services are completed or when the student turns 23 — whichever comes first.
- According to bipartisan legislation signed earlier this year, students eligible for this extension of services must have been enrolled in a school district and received services under an individualized education program during the 2021-22 school year. A similar law was in effect last school year.
- Both New York and New Jersey have extended services for students with disabilities who have "aged out" of the K-12 system in an effort to remedy the setbacks some students experienced from school closures and lack of post-high school transition services during the pandemic.
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a free appropriate public education is available to all those with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 21. States can provide special education services beyond age 21, although federal funding stops after that age.
Nationally, 32,106 students with disabilities ages 20-21 were served under IDEA and exited school during the 2019-20 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Three-fourths of IDEA-eligible students graduate high school with a regular diploma, according to NCES data from the 2019-20 school year.
A September 2021 report by the New York State Comptroller's Office recommended special education recovery services be prioritized in school district spending plans for federal and state emergency funds.
Remote learning during the pandemic "reduced the effectiveness of special education services that were being provided that ordinarily require a hands-on or face-to-face approach or specialized equipment that was unavailable at home," the comptroller's report said.
New York Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, chair of the New York State Assembly’s Subcommittee on Autism Spectrum Disorders, advocated for the bill. "Although most schools adapted to online education during the pandemic, many special education students were unable to engage in remote learning or to adapt to online lessons. For some it meant losing the last year of education they were entitled to,” Santabarbara said in an Aug. 31 statement
The number of IDEA-eligible students has been increasing in the state. Between the 2012-13 and 2019-2020 school years, students ages 3-21 classified as having a disability increased by 65,000 while the total K-12 enrollment dropped by more than 75,000. New York's legislation to extend special education services to students beyond age 21 sunsets June 30, 2024.
In New Jersey, a bipartisan law passed last year extends the age eligibility for special education and related services to students who turned 21 during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. Students with IEPs who turned 21 during the 2020-2021 school year would be eligible for special education and related services in the 2021-2022 school year. Students reaching the age of 21 during the 2021-2022 school year could receive special education and related services in the 2022-2023 school year.
A New Jersey student could not receive special education services beyond the school year in which they turn 22, unless their IEP says otherwise, according to the legislation.
The New Jersey Department of Education estimates 8,700 students across the state will age out of their special education services over the three applicable school years under this legislation. The state plans to use American Rescue Plan funds to support this temporary extension of services, which is expected to cost $600 million, according to a statement by Gov. Phil Murphy.