Tag Archive for 'Public Policy'

Pew Report Documents Sequestration’s Impact on Special Education

A report from the daily news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts indicates that sequestration is having substantial negative financial effects on special education. Under the headline “Sequester Hits Special Education Like a ‘Ton of Bricks,’” Adrienne Lu reported that “a new round of special education cuts were taking hold, prompted by a 5 percent reduction in federal funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).” According to a Michigan educator, Marcie Lipsitt, who was one of Ms. Lu’s sources, “It hit like a ton of bricks. Conditions are eroding and children are not being allowed to become taxpayers. They’re not being given access to independence, being productive, being ready for a global workforce.”
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Saying “no” to violence

Almost 20 years ago, on a discussion list that was a precursor to SpedPro, a group of us led by Jim Kauffman developed a statement about preventing violence. It seems like a propitious time to revisit it. Here is the introduction to it.

We are in no danger of becoming a nation of wimps; we are in imminent danger of becoming a nation of thugs. We know the details of violence among children and youth in our society. We recite the litany of this violence with shame, sorrow, disgust, and terror. For decades we have failed to act on what we know about the causes of violence and aggression. We can not afford to delay effective action any longer.

The violence and aggression of the young have no single cause nor a single solution. Decades of research have revealed several contributing causes and partial solutions. If we take any of the following steps, we will become a less violent society. If we argue about which step should be first or complain that taking only one or two is insufficient, we will waste energy and delay progress. If we take all these steps together, we will reap the benefits of concerted, coherent action. None of these steps is easy or quick, nor is any a full remedy; all require intelligence and persistence.

The full statement is available for review.

10th Sprout Film Festival

The tenth annual Sprout Film Festival will be showcasing 53 films related to the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities from 13 countries. The festival will take place Friday 27 April – Sunday 29 April 2012 in NYC at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Please visit the Sprout Web Site for the schedule of films and trailers. (For folks in the SpedPro neighborhood, remember that there’s a central Virginia Sprout Festival on 9 March 2012 hosted by PREP, the Parent Resource Center, Very Special Arts, International Organization on Arts and Disability.)

Free Streams: New films are continually added to the national Sprout site. Check out these latest films that can be streamed for free:

Lastly, please take a look at the schedule for the Sprout Touring Film Festival.

US report on testing accommodations

In November the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report entitled “Improved Federal Enforcement Needed to Better Protect Students’ Rights to Testing Accommodations” of a study it performed at the behest of representatives to the US Congress. Based on interviews with individuals with disabilities, educators, advocates, commercial testing companies, and others, the report provides brief insight into testing accommodations at the secondary and post-secondary level and recommendations for government action based on its findings. Interested readers may download a one-page summary of the report from the GAO office.

Deborah Speece Appointed Commissioner of National Center for Special Education Research

D. Speece 2004

Deborah L. Speece was named as the Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) on 23 August 2011. NCSER is the leading branch of the US government’s effort to study educational innovation in special education and, as its head, Commissioner Speece will oversee a program that funds scores of research efforts including projects, evaluations, and multi-site centers throughout the US. She is the second commissioner of NCSER, and her appointment was greeted with substantial approval by the special education research community.

IES Director John Q. Easton announced the appointment of Deborah Speece as Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) effective August 23, 2011. Known for her innovative studies of the classification and diagnosis of learning disabilities, Speece is a national leader in special education research and response to intervention strategies.
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Full US IDEA funding proposed again

Over on On Special Education Nirvi Shah reported that Senator Tom Harkin and colleagues once again introduced a bill proposing that the US federal government pay its full (i.e., 40%) share of the costs of special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Read her post, “Bill Would Boost Federal Spending on Students with Disabilities.”

Milwaukee parents allege voucher program discriminates against students with disabilities

Should students with disabilities get to use vouchers, too? Should private schools have to accept them? Some parents say some private schools aren’t taking vouchers from students with disabilities and they are complaining.

Journalists reported that the parents of children with disabilities in Milwaukee (WI, US) and the American Civil Liberties Union have complained to the US Deaprtment of Justice that a Milwaukee school program permitting parents to choose schools discriminates against students with disabilities. According to the complaint, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program “discriminated against students with disabilities and segregated those students in one portion of the publicly funded educational system.” The statistical basis for the argument is that 1.6% of students in the voucher-supported schools have disabilities, but nearly 20% of the students in the public schools have disabilities.
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Easter Seals campaigns for early intervention

Under the headline “Tell President Obama To Help Kids With Disabilities Realize Their Full Potential,” Change.org promoted a petition encouraging support for early intervention for children with disabilities. It’s got to be difficult to sell people on the idea of increasing government expenditures in a time of substantial concern about federal deficits, but the Easter-Seals-sponsored petition is seeking to accomplish just that end. Here’s the pitch.

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OSERS celebrates anniversary of IDEA

The US Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services posted its official recognition of the 35th anniversary of the adoption of the signing of the landmark legislation, of Public Law 94-142, then called the “Education of All Handicapped Children Act,” but which we know now as the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” or simply “IDEA.” Interested readers can review OSERS’ tribute to this remarkable legislation by reviewing the Web site dedicated to it anniversary, “The IDEA 35th Anniversary.”

Maybe special ed isn’t as bad as it’s cracked up to be?

Special education takes a lot of lumps as a dumping ground, a backwater, a path to dashed hopes, and on and on. Thanks to Amy Corbett Storch over on The Stir, it’s clear that special ed isn’t so bad. In “Why We’re Not Afraid of Special Education,” Ms. Storch explains why she wasn’t fazed by allowing her son to be identified as having a disability and receiving special education. Here’s her lead:

When we first told some of our family members that we decided to seek support and services for our child through the school district’s special education program (and later, after he actually qualified for the special education program), they were shocked. Shocked that Noah — sweet, smart, sociable little Noah with all his invisible labels — qualified in the first place, and that we would actually willingly send our child to public school special ed.

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Costs-benefits of special education

Over on Squidalicious, a guest post by Lea Cuniberti-Duran about “Special Needs Children and Public Education” appears under the title “We Are Not Sparta: The Real, Justified Costs of Educating Kids With Special Needs.” Ms. Cuniberti-Duran recounts the argument that schools are hamstrung by the costs of providing special education services.

I have attended many school district budget meetings in which officials blurted to their audience, “We cannot pay for XYZ because of our financial responsibility toward children with special needs: to educate one special needs student can cost the district $100,000 a year.” I also hear about how the district has “an unfunded mandate to educate children with special needs, and how this results into an encroachment to the general fund.”

She then proceeds to provide a clear and powerful dismissal of the canard that special education’s costs harm others. Not only does she show how the costs argument leaks (at least with regard to the local education agencies in her geographic area of the US), but also she explains how beneficial special education has been to society as a whole over the past 35 years. Read it!

Posny congratulated on confirmation

The US Senate confirmed Alexa Posny as assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services in the US Department of Education Monday 5 October 2009. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a press release congratulating Dr. Posny on the confirmation. Here’s a snippet from the press release:

Alexa E. Posny comes to the department from Kansas where she served as commissioner of education for the state. As commissioner, Posny was responsible for helping over 450,000 students meet or exceed high academic standards, licensing over 45,000 teachers and overseeing a state education budget of more than $4.5 billion. Prior to her work as commissioner, Posny served as the director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for the U.S. Department of Education, a position in which she assisted state and local efforts to effectively educate all children and youth with disabilities. Posny has also served as the Kansas deputy commissioner of education, Kansas state director of special education, director of special education for the Shawnee Mission School District, director of the Curriculum and Instruction Specialty Option as part of the Title I Technical Assistance Center (TAC) network of TACs across the United States, and a senior research associate at Research and Training Associates in Overland Park, Kan. Posny earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, a master’s degree in behavioral disabilities and a doctorate in educational administration both from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Posny has also served on the Board of Directors for the Chief State School Officers, the National Council for Learning Disabilities, and chaired the National Assessment Governing Board’s Special Education Task Force. Posny has also been a teacher at the elementary, middle school, high school and university levels.

Link for the full press release. Catch coverage by Lisa Fine for On Special Education.

Posney to OSERS

The US President Barack Obama announced that he plans to nominate Alexa E. Posny for the position of Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) in the Department of Education. Dr. Posny, who currently serves as commission of education for the state of Kansas, will return to US ED where she previously served as Director in the Office of Special Education Programs.

OSERS claims its mission is to “promote academic excellence, enhance educational opportunities and equity for all of America’s children and families, and to improve the quality of teaching and learning by providing leadership, technical assistance and financial support.” In the role of Assistant Secretary for OSERS, Ms. Posny will oversee policies related to achievement in schools, educational improvement, and financial assistance for local education agencies.

The White House press release provided background information about Commissioner Posny:

Alexa E. Posny currently serves as the Commissioner of Education for the state of Kansas. As Commissioner, she is responsible for helping over 450,000 students meet or exceed high academic standards, licensing over 45,000 teachers, and overseeing a state education budget of a little over $4.5 billion dollars. Prior to this, Posny was appointed as the Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for the U.S. Department of Education, a position in which she assisted state and local efforts to effectively educate all children and youth with disabilities. Other positions that Posny has held included the Kansas Deputy Commissioner of Education , Kansas State Director of Special Education, Director of Special Education for the Shawnee Mission School District, Director of the Curriculum and Instruction Specialty Option as part of the Title 1 Technical Assistance Center (TAC) network of TACs across the United States, and a Senior Research Associate at Research and Training Associates in Overland Park, KS. Posny earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, a master’s degree in behavioral disabilities and a doctorate in educational administration both from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Currently she serves on the Board of Directors for the Chief State School Officers, the National Council for Learning Disabilities, and chairs the National Assessment Governing Board’s Special Education Task Force. Most importantly, she has been a teacher at the elementary, middle and high school levels and remains a teacher today, serving as adjunct faculty with the University of Kansas.

Links for:

Do Chicago schools hide special ed students?

One of the on-going concerns about high-stakes testing and special education is whether scores of students with disabilities should be included in a school’s or local education agency’s average on tests. If they do, won’t they drag the average to lower levels? If they don’t isn’t that counter to the advocacy position of some organizations (e.g., National Center on Learning Disabilities)?

The issue’s complicated by the change in the US government. People are looking carefully at the records of the newly appointed officials in the US Obama Administration. And, low and behold, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s record is under the magnifying glass. As Christina Samuels reports in “Chicago Schools Come Under Fire for Special Education Progams,” the actions of schools that were under Mr. Duncan’s oversight are in the crosshairs.

Because U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was the superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, I keep an eye out for special education news originating from the city. This article, in the Chi-Town Daily News, is about an accusation from a principal that students with special learning needs are barred from evaluations because it’s too expensive to educate them.

A Chicago Public Schools principal yesterday accused district officials of routinely denying disabled students access to specialized help, and at times even barring them from evaluation for learning disabilities.

As is common with Ms. Samuels’ report, this is a valuable recitation of the situation. I recommend it to folks who are concerned about high-stakes testing and special education. Link to the article.

NCD meeting 20 July 2009

National Council on Disability (NCD) has invited people to attend a meeting and contribute to a discussion of policies, practices, and etc. that affect individuals with disabilities. Although this meeting is not precisely centered on special education, I’ve posted it here for the benefit of those of us who work with families, on transition issues, or are concerned with other aspects of special education where larger issues of public policy intersect with special ed.

June 17, 2009
Dear Friends and Colleagues:

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), it is my pleasure to invite you to attend NCD’s next quarterly meeting, which will take place at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center, 30 South 7th Street, Minneapolis, MN, beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, July 20, 2009, and ending at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 22, 2009. This meeting is open to the public.

NCD is an independent federal agency, composed of 15 members appointed by the President, by and with the consent of the U.S. Senate. NCD’s purpose is to promote policies, programs, practices, and procedures that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities, and that empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society. To carry out this mandate we gather public and stakeholder input, including that received at our public meetings held around the country; review and evaluate federal programs and legislation; and provide the President, Congress, and federal agencies with advice and recommendations.
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