Special Education, Budgets and Quality Education

Kathleen Rhodes of the Evansville Examiner reported on May 3, 2011 on a trend for America’s special education programs to be hit hard by budget shortfalls (http://www.examiner.com/evansville).  She refers to a study of The Council of Exceptional Children.  The effects are being seen in Indiana, and now cuts in personnel are contributing to higher and more demanding caseloads:

“With the budget cuts, special education teachers are having to carry the maximum caseload and are not being able to provide the best services so students can continue in the least restrictive environment.   A recent CEC study reported that special education teachers felt overwhelmed by paperwork, high caseloads, lack of administrative support, and a lack of resources. These factors, combined with the shortage of qualified special education teachers, often prevent special educators from providing quality instruction to their students.”

Here special education refers to school speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and school psychologists as well. 

The CEC national survey did in fact report hiring freezes, layoffs and high caseloads (http://www.cec.sped.org). We see how national economic problems and policy directly affect local districts like those in Indiana.  Best practice gets knocked around and notions of “quality education” are mentioned.

COMMENT

Yet to a degree special educators have brought this problem on themselves.  Guessing, perhaps 25% of the children in U. S. special education programs, children contributing to direct reimbursement costs, do not belong there in the first place, because of overidentification problems and inadequate development of general education remedial programs. Nationwide, non-disabled minority children are suffering from special education placements.  Special education has been compared to a black hole.

On April 6, 2011, the Berksmont News (Pottstown, PA) published a Letter to the Editor by Tom Fautt  concerning budget issues at Kutztown schools.  School administrators wanted personnel funds but state data indicated too many children were in special education.  “This over identification of special education needs students is insulting to those students who have been properly identified as needing help. It is also damning evidence of a philosophy that advocates for more and more of your money to support programs that build staff and increase union dues.

Budget shortfalls get at the issue of what “quality education” really means!  Avoiding special education placement of non-disabled children improves quality and saves money. 

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