TUCSON (CN) – A budget battle is boiling over in Arizona, and parents have filed a federal class action over one of its casualties. Parents say the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s cuts to the Arizona Early Intervention Program violate constitutional due process and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The program provides in-home physical therapy, social and psychological services to developmentally delayed children up to 3 years old.
The Department of Economic Security cut the program after the state Senate in January slashed agency budgets in response to a $1.6 billion shortfall. Parents claim this left more than 3,000 developmentally disabled infants and toddlers cut off, or with significantly reduced services.
Represented by the Arizona Center for Disability Law, Anne M., Vanessa W. and Michelle R. sued on behalf of their disabled children.
Infant Zoe M., who required oxygen at birth, did “not speak any words that are intelligible by anyone but her family,” the complaint states.
Arianna W., at 28 months, lags behind peers in language skills due to a heart defect, for which she had surgery when she was 5 months old.
Seth R., born prematurely, has health issues and did not speak.
All showed improvements in communication skills after receiving therapy, and were learning American Sign Language when the program was discontinued.
“Children who are not ready to learn when they enter kindergarten are more likely to struggle in elementary school, and are more likely to become teen parents, engage in criminal activities, and suffer from depression,” the complaint states. “Early intervention services are essential building blocks for the future success of infants and toddlers with disabilities,” it added, quoting from a guide on early education.
The parents seek declaratory judgment and an injunction restoring the program.