Around the country, state education chiefs, local school superintendents, and school boards are eliminating special education services. There’s an effort to get rid of special education. Sometimes this is done through language that sounds appealing.
Who doesn’t want a quality education for all children? Why not declassify students? Do schools really need part-time resource classes for reading? These claims might sound acceptable but they almost always lead to budget cuts!
Here is what I am referring to. If I have left something out or you have a favorite claim that’s made to get rid of special education please let me know.
- “The bar is too low.” When the IEP is written carefully with feedback from parents and a variety of specialists the goals should be realistic and challenging. The bar should never be set too low if parents are involved in the decision-making and the IEP is written correctly.
- “We need an enrollment cap.” Caps on special education should be outlawed! Ask the Texas Education Agency how their cap on services is working out.
- “General education needs the money more than special education.” This has been a common claim from the beginning of IDEA (PL 94-142). It pits special education against general education.
- “Students deserve quality schooling.” This implies that special education, or any kind of individual assistance, lacks quality. It’s an attempt to convince parents that less individualized attention for students is best.
- “We need to consolidate classes and/or schools.” Combining classes or closing schools usually leads to overcrowding and students can get lost in the crowd. This is a privatization ploy.
- “We need to declassify children.” Certainly we need to work on dropping labels, but in this case it means losing services.
- “All children are gifted.” This is meant to get rid of gifted special education. It’s true that all children are unique and have strengths, and all students deserve a quality education. But students with I.Q.s off the high end of the chart usually need special education. They might depend on a different way of learning to stay in school.
- “Special education graduation rates are down.” Special education and graduation are controversial and deserve serious debate and discussion. Using this as an excuse to ditch special education is unreasonable.
- “We need more and better data.” Why? What’s the purpose and who profits? Well-prepared teachers know what information they need. Such information should be between those who work with the child and the parents.
- “We spend too much money on special education.” Question this assumption especially in today’s climate.
- “Assistants and aides for special education are not necessary.” Teachers depend on special education assistants and aides to help classes run smoothly. Losing these roles hurt the teacher and the students.
- “Speech and language teachers, counselors, occupational therapists, etc. are not necessary.” These are vitally important positions to support a good school special education program. Cutting those who work in these professional roles harms the basic intent of special education.
- “Students only need to work on the computer.” Technology can be helpful to students with special needs, but children need positive teacher and peer group relationships.
- “There aren’t enough school psychologists to do testing.” How many years has this been a problem? How many students sit on waiting lists today?
Special education became a reality because children learn differently and require individualized teacher instruction. It became law that they receive such services. There should be no turning back now and denying students their rights.
Anita Royster says
Thank you for writing this. There are so many children that need special education. I do not like how services are shrinking for students, except the most severely disabled. I agree that too many fall through the cracks. Services are even changing at the preschool level when the philosophy has been to get intervention started sooner to make a better impact. It is just not right.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Anita. You raise a great point.