Back to School: What Can We Expect in the Special Education World?

Well it is back to school for most school systems in Georgia this week.  What can parents of children with special needs expect for the 2013-2014 school year?  What new and different challenges can parents expect in the special education world?

One thing that parents should be on the lookout is the issue of school and special education funding. With diminishing school budgets, you can bet that school systems will squeeze every penny to make ends meet. What does this mean for parents of children with disabilities.  It may mean that more children with disabilities will be placed in segregated school settings such as self-contained classrooms.  For example, I am representing a second grade child with significant developmental delays (SDD) who spent last school year mostly in regular education and resources classes.  At an IEP meetings in May, the IEP committee changed the child’s educational placement to a mild intellectually disabled self-contained class at a school that is not the chid’s home school or even within the cluster of schools that the child would attend if she was not disabled. Why?

I have filed for a due process hearing for the child to continue her stay-put placement at her previous school and maintain her placement for the majority of the school day in regular education and resources classes.  The parents and I have our beliefs that the school system did not want to spend more money on retaining a paraprofessional for the child to maintain her regular education. In fact, because of the Georgia Quality Basic Education Act, there is a disincentive for school systems to maintain children with disabilities in inclusive educational settings.  How can this be?  There is an ongoing investigation by the United States Department of Education into Georgia Department of Education”s system of funding special education as a result of a complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery,  Alabama.  I will discuss this investigation in another post. For now, however,  suffice it to say that there may be a hidden agenda at IEP meetings to deny children the least restrictive environment (LRE) because of lack of funding.

Parents of children with disabilities face the reality that diminishing federal, state and local funding for education is taking its toll.  Class sizes are larger.  Teachers are being laid off or furlough days are increased.  Property taxes may increase to make up for the gap in school funding. And children with disabilities may be placed in more restricitve or segregated educational settings because school systems do not have the funding to pay for “supplementary aids and services” to maintain these children in more inclusive settings. What can parents do?  If you believe that your school system is using the lack of adequate funding to place your child in a more inclusive educational settings, then contact a special education advocate or special education attorney for assistance.