Students with unique needs will be able to continue their specialized education plans past the age of 21 under a measure signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

The new law is meant to address expiring special education services for students whose learning was disrupted by the COVID pandemic. 

Under the measure that was backed by state Sen. Peter Harckham and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, the students will be able to finish their education plans up until they turn 23 in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. 

“Disruptions caused by the pandemic continue to ripple through our state’s education system — and the individualized programs and services for our students with unique needs,” Harckham said. “This bill recognizes that these students, many who lost a full year of instruction, should be allowed to finish their programs because of the structure and stability they provide. This simply helps students thrive and continue to learn.”

More broadly, the new law addresses the effect of school closures and remote learning, which especially took a toll on students who have disabilities and special needs. Student evaluations and assessments were postponed and some students fell behind as a result. 

The governor previously signed a law last year that gave school districts approval to continue to provide educational services for students who had turned 21 in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. 

“An appropriate education is the key to a better future,” said Abinanti. “This is especially true for students with disabilities. Like all students, those with disabilities are entitled to an appropriate education. The pandemic should not prevent them from progressing toward their educational goals. This new law makes it clear that the state law’s ‘age out’ provision does not relieve school districts of their federally and state required obligations to provide compensatory educational services to students with disabilities when the regular course of education is interrupted.”