Thousands of public schools across the country aren’t using 504 plans, according to a new analysis. On the flip side, some public schools actively use them. In some schools, as many as 20 to 30 percent of students have 504 plans. This analysis raises concerns about why the use of 504 plans varies so much.
Nationally, around 2.3 percent of students have 504 plans. That percentage has been rising since 2009, when Congress expanded who qualifies for the plans. But it doesn’t tell the whole story about what’s happening at the local level.
That’s why Professor Perry Zirkel of Lehigh University decided to look at local schools. He worked with the U.S. government’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) from the 2015–2016 academic year. The CRDC is a biennial survey on public schools across the country.
Zirkel found that 12,229 public schools don’t have a single 504 plan. Also, 327 public school districts don’t have 504 plans at all. That’s one out of every eight public schools and school districts nationally, according to Zirkel. The analysis excludes small schools and districts. So those numbers could be even higher.
According to Zirkel, there seems to be a “dramatically significant pattern of suspected underidentification.” In other words, a lot of kids who could be eligible for 504 plans might not have them.