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Education

Bill Would Help Students With Disabilities Find Jobs

Pennsylvania public schools serve roughly 260,000 students with disabilities ages six through 21, about 16 percent of the state’s total student population, according to the U.S. Department of Education. A bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would make it easier for those students to find part-time employment while in high school.

Rep. Mauree Gingrich (R-Lebanon County) is the bill’s prime sponsor and the chair of the House Labor and Industry Committee. She said the issue of finding work for students with disabilities came to her attention when she took over as the committee’s chair in January.

“When we looked at our population that has some disabled capacity of some sort, one of the areas that they seemed marginalized potentially is getting into the workplace,” Gingrich said.

The bill calls for the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to make connections between schools and employers to increase the number of jobs available to students with disabilities. Gingrich said many students with disabilities are able to work, but “it’s a matter of them finding the right position that’s a good match for them.”

Gingrich hopes part-time employment during high school will give the affected students the connections, skills and background necessary to enter the workforce after graduation.

“The doors open to work opportunities when you’ve had some work experience — they’ve proven themselves, to some degree,” Gingrich said.

Funding for this initiative will come from state and federal grants, Gingrich said. Gingrich said the bill has bipartisan support and will be considered by the House when the full session begins April 13.