Start Early will create foundational documents designed for outreach and discussion with school district associations and leaders that outline preschool least restrictive environment requirements, the regulations and policies that govern community-based providers' enrollment of children with disabilities, the research on why inclusion is good for all children, policy reasons why school districts should, and need to, improve their inclusion practices, and levers for change. Start Early will incorporate reference to the seminal federal policy documents as well as guiding documents from IL, including the PDG-5 Strategic Plan for inclusion that was developed based on the longstanding investments in early childhood inclusion from ICDD. https://www.eclre.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/InclusionBrochure2020HyperlinksFinal4.6.20.pdf
Start Early will engage early childhood providers and families in "story telling" videos to ensure that lived experience is included in outreach and engagement with all intended audiences. Start Early will also identify any resources and best practices from other city and states that can be used to inform these discussions and recommendations. Start Early will map school district associations for opportunities for engagement with their leadership, including regular meetings, conferences, and other council/taskforce activities. Start Early will begin the outreach and engagement with school district associations and regional offices of education to ascertain their level of awareness of LEA obligations for the provision of preschool services in the least restrictive environment and to identify next steps for engagement. Through the interviews, Start Early will also collect information about the opportunities, challenges, and barriers LEAs might have to partnering with community-based early childhood programs in their attendance areas. Initial recommendations for action will be documented.
Strengthening Early Childhood Inclusion Report disseminated in the fall of 2021. External Facing Inclusion Everywhere Report.pdf
To build upon findings and recommendations, expanded work is targeted to reducing barriers to delivering special education services within community based preschool settings through public awareness and education activities and connections with state and national systems work with the goal of improving Local Education Agency collaboration with community providers to serve children within the least restrictive environment.