Thursday, June 23, 2016

Special Education Stories of Note

From KPLU: How The Language Of Special Education Is Evolving
And fundamentally there's an issue here of how we perceive and define another human being. 
You have to be careful, Gilger says, not to "define the whole person as their handicap. You're not an autistic person, you're a person who's been diagnosed with an autistic disorder. That distinguishes between one aspect of a person and the whole person." 

Otherwise, there's a danger of defining people by what they can't do. And implying that somehow that person is, as the style guide says, "suffering or living a reduced quality of life."
Here's a big issue to understand; there are states that give vouchers so that parents of Special Education students can attend any school they want - public, charter or private.

Here's a recent study from the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA):
School Vouchers and Students with Disabilities: Examining Impact in the Name of Choice

To know:
  • To date, the only federal dollars spent on vouchers are those approved for the District of Columbia schools and their families; however, in the past several years, the push to bring vouchers forward in federal policy has been consistent and strong. 
  • Some of these voucher programs are designed specifically for students with disabilities and some are not. 
  • And, most importantly, not all of the state voucher programs distinctly protect the civil rights of children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) among other federal laws.
As well:
    - Parents often choose a voucher regardless of the availability of civil rights protections due to the urgency of their child needing to change schools.

    - Parents like knowing they can explore their options when vouchers are available, even if they end up keeping their child in the neighborhood public school.

    -  Little data exists with regard to families choosing vouchers that limit or terminate IDEA rights once those families leave the traditional public school.

    - Voucher funding is rarely sufficient and generally does not cover the full cost of the child’s education, meaning that only parents with adequate finances have a choice.

    - Some schools accept children with a disability (and the voucher funds) and then expel them for behavior or other reasons forcing the children back into a poor or inappropriate school situation.

    - Special‐education specific voucher programs typically fail to include all students with disabilities and it is rare for programs to accept students who are twice exceptional.
    - Too little data exists to compare the academic outcomes of students with disabilities [and other students] participating in voucher programs to public school students. 
    They conclude:

    1. Our report clarifies that we still know far too little about the impact of voucher programs on students with disabilities and their families. Given the dearth of knowledge about best practices, protecting procedural safeguards and civil rights of children and the cost, both direct and indirect on children and families, it is too soon for the federal government to unilaterally make federal funds available for voucher programs.
    As the study states, we can't know why parents would make these choices but there might be several reasons (and please weigh in with your ideas):
    1. We're Americans and we like the comfort of choice.
    2. Parents may believe that a private or charter school is smaller and even if they have no real program to serve their child's IEP, that child might still get more attention.
    3.  Parents may be trying to backfill education at home to get a better school environment for their child.
    But I believe this idea of vouchers for Special Education is not about serving children in better ways.  I believe it's just the foot in the door for "vouchers for all."  Meaning, we pretty much end organized public education and let it be a free-for-all for education.  Given what this study says this early on, I don't see how voucher programs better serve students with challenges. That's why I don't believe in vouchers.  


      Anonymous said...

      The problem with the IDEA and SPS has been with compliance. The fact that OSPI has failed to provide meaningful over site for the last 15 years has not helped. Many families can't afford to hire an attorney or navigate all the traps districts set, including fighting parents to the bitter end with expensive lawyers.

      Complaint after complaint, decision after decision is more than ample proof of a district incapable of delivering what the IDEA requires. Keep in mind that for every citizen complaint filed there are many other violations that parents don't report.

      The voucher systems approved in other states do not cover anywhere near the cost of outside services, so for a system to be viable here lets first increase the dollar amount,remove the restrictions for claiming vouchers and eliminate the need to rescind your child's IDEA rights.

      Allowing students a path to receive the services they so desperately need is NOT a path to charters and it's just insulting to make that claim.

      Given all the turmoil around SPED, SPS should welcome such a system.

      SPED Parent

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