Monday, October 29, 2012

School Budget Cuts and Special Education

Are you the parent of a child currently receiving special education services? Are you extremely concerned about the troubles schools seem to be having with money lately? Have you been told by special education personnel that your child's services are going to be cut due to lack of money, or that you will have to pay for some services? This article will be discussing school districts lack of money and threats being made to cut special education services; whether it is legal and possible motivations for doing this!
Special education services are considered an entitlement under Federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004--IDEA 2004). In order to be eligible for special education services a child must have a disability (such as autism, a specific learning disability) and have educational need. School districts are required to provide children a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) which includes all services needed for the child to benefit from their education. While parents must fight for these services, the child is entitled to them.
Since a child is entitled to all the services they need; it is truly illegal for a school district to state that they will not provide services, due to lack of money. The Department of Education's Office of Special Education Program (OSEP) has taken the position over the years that lack of money is not an excuse, for not providing needed services. The problem becomes that parents must prove that their child needs the services, and then fight for the school district to actually provide them!
Lately I have heard from several parents that have received threats from school personnel that their child's self contained program was going to close, and/or that they were going to ask parents to pay for Extended School Year services during the summertime. The child with a disability is entitled to FAPE which includes the word Free, so charging for services is not legal; under any circumstances! Also schools must provide a continuum of placement services which starts from the regular classroom, and then goes to special classes, special schools etc. If the school district is threatening to close a child's self contained class how will they educate the child if they close the class. Shutting programs that children need is also not legal!
Below are a few of my thoughts on why some school personnel may be making these threats to parents:
1. School personnel may be trying to force a tax increase or fight for more state and Federal money! I have actually seen rallies on television where parents are fighting for new taxes for education, and/or trying to get the State or Federal Government to fund schools more. Schools already receive a large amount of Federal and State tax money. more than any other sector. Perhaps the problem is how they are spending their money, and what their priorities are!
2. One reason school personnel may be threatening parents is because many parents do not know that schools cannot legally cut special education services or programs that their child needs! This is the reason that it is critical that parents know Federal and State law, so that they can stand up to school personnel!
3. School personnel may be trying to get parents to back down from asking for expensive services. I talk about this a lot in my book Disability Deception-about how schools do not want to provide services to children that may be costly-even though the child needs it. It is important for parents to advocate for their child because their child's life will be ruined if they do not receive an appropriate education.
Many of the threats being made to parents of children in special education are actually illegal under Federal law! Children are depending on us as their parents, to stand up to lies and deceptions in special education, for the good of their education!

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