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Students with disabilities get more time to finish school under bill heading to Sununu

NHPR file photo.

A new bill would give students with disabilities an extra year to finish high school and extend access to special education services. House Bill 1513 passed in the New Hampshire Legislature and is awaiting Gov. Chris Sununu’s approval.

The state would change how it defined the age window of “children with disabilities.” Right now, children ages 3 to 21 are eligible for special education services offered by school districts. HB 1513 would extend the age limit to “21 inclusive,” meaning students could receive services until they turn 22, a provision that aligns with federal law.

Karen Rosenberg, the policy director of Disability Rights Center, said the passage of this law would be a crucial step for New Hampshire.

“This is about bringing our state into compliance with a federal law that requires that schools provide a free and appropriate public education to students with disabilities with a goal of helping kids to become productive, independent adults, fully participating in our communities,” she said.

The extra year gives students more flexibility to complete career coaching and community programs funded by their school districts, Rosenberg added.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Boyd (R-Merrimack), came under consideration of the House Education Committee in January, and it was approved by the Senate with an amendment in April.

New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said the ultimate goal is to allow students with disabilities to be more prepared to enter the workforce.

“It is our hope that this extra time will set them up for success,” said Edelblut.

If passed, the bill would take effect immediately.

(Editor's Note: Gov. Chris Sununu signed the legislation into law on June 24.)

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