Defenders have been fighting for this for at least a decade. Several other states offer similar options for students with dementia, and California already offers alternative degree paths for certain groups of students, such as those whose education is interrupted due to homelessness. , with a host family or migrants.
In 2020, the state budget set aside funds for a task force to study the issue and make recommendations. The working group reportreleased last fall, discusses details including transcripts and whether students continue to work toward their degree after turning 18 (they can).
The 2022 budget, passed in June, included $1 million in federal funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to implement the task force’s recommendations. The new path could be implemented as early as next year. Although not required, the state encourages all districts to adopt it.
Sue Sawyer, president of the California Transition Alliance, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities after they graduate, has been working on the issue since 2013. The main reason for the new path, she said, is new research and understanding of what people with dementia are capable of.
“Our expectations have changed. We now expect people to go to work,” Sawyer said. ” It is very simple. If you leave school without a diploma, it closes doors. If you have a degree, you have options. I’m excited about the future because although we still have work to do, I think we’re on the right track.
Joyce Clark, co-director of the Exceptional Family Resource Center in San Diego, said a path to a degree won’t solve everything for students with disabilities, but it’s a crucial step toward further education, rewarding careers, and higher incomes, which could lead to greater independence.