Special Education Budget Cuts of 2011

A cursory survey of current press reports in February of 2011 reveals an increasing number of reports indicating local schools are cutting special education funds to meet their budget obligations.   The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided emergency funds to schools nationally to retain positions in special education, but those funds are running out.  Administrators are targeting special education for reductions, especially personnel. 

 The Winfield Daily Courier,  February 18, 2011, reported Kansas is facing budget cuts that might  impair long-term funding.     Lawmakers in Topeka face a dilemma on special education funding.  In a scramble to close this year’s budget gap, the House cut $26.4 million for special education.  The Senate, concerned over losing federal funds for special education, restored that money to the budget.   Now leaders of both bodies are trying to work out a compromise.”

Such reports point out the manner in which special education is regarded as a separate entity in schools, assuming neither children nor teachers in special education have anything to do with general education. 

In small schools there are teachers who split time between general education and special education.  For Title 1 programs school psychologists and speech-langauge pathologists provide support.  Reading specialists may work in both programs.

Learning disabled children and other categories of disabled children spend most of their time in the regular classroom.  Reducing personnel in special education is another way of saying regular education teachers will be returning to their traditional roles of serving all children within an age group.

Here again, as we have pointed before, money pushes best practice around when long-term solutions to help “struggling children” are needed.  From the federal level cascading downward to the states and through to local schools, the “budget process” trumps the rhetoric and the essence of “quality education.”

The budget process for government schools and universal design of learning for school improvement are principles of natural antithesis and political wrangling.

“Universal design is consistent with Response To Intervention approaches in the school setting.  It can be used to sidestep the artificial division between special education and general education.  Assessments can honor a gradation of abilities without categorization of any kind.”  (cf Universal Design for Special Education).

The average American citizen wonders why quality of life is suffering at the hands of government.   Even fine administrators shake their heads when wild budget machinations are in the air.

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