Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
The U.S. Department of Education says higher expectations mean more tests for students with disabilities (with Common Core’s PARCC and Smarter Balance), and college for everyone.
Along with this, we are also watching serious funding cuts to special education services in school districts around the country.
Stop Common Core NYS criticizes recent policymaking that claims there will be fewer alternative tests for students with disabilities. Students will instead be expected to take tests like PARCC and Smarter Balance connected to Common Core–and they will need to be college and career ready.
Decisions surrounding all of this should be between parents and teachers creating the IEP at the school. We know the U.S. Department of Education is overstepping their bounds.
We also saw this coming when the U.S. DOE recently refused to consider the New York Board of Education’s attempt to lighten the load on students with disabilities when it came to testing. And then there was all the talk a year ago about needing to test students with disabilities and have “higher expectations.”
While the ante is being raised for students with special needs, they are also losing what little support they had. They are left with no safety net if they don’t do well on the tests. The services cut could, unfortunately, be exactly what students need to help them really get to college.
While special education should be evolving into something better (more individualization for all children and even a different name perhaps?) that is not what we see today. What we see are top down mandates by a few parent groups, politicians and corporate shills—many who have no background working with children.
Unbridled cuts to critical services affect all areas of special education including students with dyslexia, autism, emotional and behavioral problems or serious cognitive disabilities. Students who are gifted or twice-exceptional are also discounted. The Council for Exceptional Children voiced concern about such cuts in 2013 with their report Voices from the Field.
There is a concerted effort underway–there has been for years–to get rid of special education. It is cruel and not what you would expect out of a great country.
Here are some examples of state and district special education funding cuts:
- In New Hampshire they passed a 7.5 million reduction in special education, $4 million cut to the Department of Corrections, and $2 million in cuts to nurses in a New Hampshire hospital.
- In Tennessee from April 2015: In the state budget approved last week by the Tennessee legislature, the district received an additional $20 million but also $4 million in cuts to special education, prompting district administrators to scramble to build some positions back into the budget and ultimately frustrating some board members.
- Chicago will grab $42 million from special education, cutting hundreds of paraprofessional and teacher positions, and they are closing special education centers.
- At the same time, Minneapolis wants to dismantle its successful program for students with autism.
- Vermont is cutting programs to their Department of Corrections including a program to help offenders earn diplomas.
- In Hawaii, even though the budget office said they shouldn’t make any cuts to special education, the Department of Education officials told school board members they wanted to cut $9.15 million from the roughly $326 million in general-fund special education spending because of a likely reduction in state tax revenues. The proposed cut represented a 2.8 percent reduction.
- They seem to have money in Florida! They prioritized school choice, setting aside $23.4 million for scholarships for children with special needs. How those choice schools are accountable is anyone’s guess. But policymakers seem to always find money for privatization.
- The discrepancies between rich and poor is felt in Kansas, where poor schools have tattered books for their special education students, but in wealthy districts they get iPads.
Like many schools across the country, schools in Oklahoma had a serious teacher shortage due to past cuts, but they were able to fill most special education positions this year. I wonder about the credentials of those teachers.
- North Carolina, like a lot of states, has underfunded or frozen education spending in special education in the past. In 2012, there was grave concern about the strange funding formula that appeared to create inequities in special education funding.
- In 2012, in one of the most ridiculous moves, the U.S. Dept. of Education withheld $36 million in funds for special education to South Carolina. Why? They were punishing the state for cutting its own special education spending three years earlier (Shah, Nirvi, 2012)!
- Remember the education sequester? Special education and poor children wound up being hurt the most according to this article in The Atlantic by Laura McKenna.
- According to Education Week, an auditor has found that New Mexico has a $100 million special education shortfall, and they also have a dispute with the U.S. Department of Education over how to calculate their funding. Will this be another South Carolina where they strip funding sources for special education altogether?
- In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts special education funding leveled off in 2015, but there is hope it will be better in 2016. “The governor’s budget would level-fund the special education circuit breaker program at $253.4 million. Because special education costs are expected to rise in fiscal 2016, this means that the governor’s budget likely underfunds reimbursements by at least several million dollars. This is a vital account that every city, town and school district relies on to fund state-mandated services. The Legislature has fully funded the program for the past three years, and the MMA will again be asking lawmakers to ensure full funding in fiscal 2016.”
There is much more. I will continue to follow what the states are doing and add to this list as time goes by. Let me know about what you see in your state.
For two years I have written on my blog about the loss of special education. My website includes programs to support special education. In my book, I have a whole chapter dedicated to the loss of special education.
The latest testing fiasco is one more step in the direction of eliminating all programs for students with disabilities.
Shah, Nirvi. “Ed. Dept. Slashes S.C. Special Education Budget, Permanently.” Education Week. Oct. 18, 2012.