Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Special Ed; Special Needs

This article appeared in today's Times about special education students and the struggles their parents have in trying to get "appropriate services". I put quotes on that phrase because it is how the federal government puts it in law. However, what is appropriate? The first story in the article is about a child whose bus has been late for the first weeks of school for several years now. I suspect that he is on a bus with other special ed kids who need a smaller bus to be picked up in and those kids may change schools often (through no fault of their own if stories I've heard are true) but how does that prevent the bus from being on time? A couple of days late but weeks?

From the article:

"Everett was one of 12 school districts that last year challenged the state's special-education funding formula. Under that formula, special-education students received a flat-rate payment about double of what is paid for basic education students, regardless of the level of services required.

"A student who is medically fragile, requiring toileting, tube feeding and all the special equipment, is going to cost a lot more than one who spends time with a speech therapist twice a week, but we receive the same amount from the state," said Everett schools spokeswoman Mary Waggoner.

In March, a Thurston County Superior Court judge refused to overturn the funding formula, saying it was consistent with national standards. But the judge did throw out a cap that limits districts to identifying no more than 12.7 percent of their students as special-education pupils."

It is disturbing that the state would say there is one formula for all special education students. That makes life pretty hard on both sides. Districts, because they are trying to stretch dollars to meet all needs, and parents who don't see enough of the services they would like for students.


Anonymous said...

Haven't read the story yet, but the implication that funding for a special needs student is limited to the state formula is incorrect - there is "safety net" funding that is available by application to the state.

Safety net funding is for students whose expenses exceed the formula funding, e.g., a student whose IEP requires he be sent to a school out of state for Prader-Willi syndrome because his home school district cannot sufficiently meet his needs.

From what I understand, SPS has in the past had difficulties meeting the application requirements for safety net funding, and so did not apply - however, has since been able to successfully apply for thousands of dollars of safety net funding.

In any case, the statement from the Everett person is somewhat shocking in its ignorance of the system or its intent to mislead, whichever it is (unless the reporter is remiss in recording exactly what the person said.)

Anonymous said...

Safety Met is not a guarntee or an entitlement, it is a request, it is only an option for a small number of kids, and even when you make it, you never get all of what you request.

Plus, the state rather notoriously punished the districts who sued over special education funding by giving them little or no Safety Net Funds.

Anonymous said...

The reason the district failed was NOT because the spending was consistent with national standards! The suing districts failed to show that they actually spend their special education money on special education students. Therefore, the districts lost as they should have. If you have a child in special education, it is painfully obvious that the money doesn't go to special education students. If the state gave more money, it still wouldn't go to those students.

School district are required to fund special education students with their GENERAL EDUCATION allotment (most don't) and then, fund their extra needs with a special education supplement. Most districts don't bother giving the students their general education monies... and attempt to fund special education solely with the supplement. It is both illegal, and inadequate, and the judge in this case upheld that position.

Anonymous said...

There used to be a weighted formula for funding special education students. It was fraught with inconsistency and ultimately declared unconstitutional since services cannot be based on label.(15 or so years ago) The Safety Net funding IS the legislated mechanism for high cost students.

The Everett official never mentions that most special education students get very limited (and cheap) support... 20 minutes of speech therapy a week or the like... and still receive the same as an extremely disabled child. They'd rather blame the expensive one and not bother applying for the legislated mechanism, the Safety Net.

Yes, safety net funding is guaranteed, but you have to provide proof and accountability in your funding processes. Seattle, only 1 time has even applied for it. So it isn't as if they somehow got screwed by the state. They never tried. Other districts like Vancouver have somehow managed to get millions. In Seattle, we only have district officials who complain about the expensive kids. Really, the district officials are the ones who should have applied for our money and have really cost us millions in the long run. Literally, millions and millions. Accountability anyone?

Anonymous said...

Here's the exact words of the judge. Washington State Special Education Coalition has long held that inadequate basic education funding, which includes a fixed special education multiplier, is the culprit of special education funding (as well as for everybody else). Seems very basic to me.

"At the end of the trial, it seems evident that the alleged shortfall in the special education appropriation, if it is found to exist at all, is the product of an inadequate BEA, not an inadequate excess cost multiplier." Judge Thomas McPhee 3/1/07

Anonymous said...

I just read an article today regarding the ( developmentally disabled) girl that reported a sexual assault at Rainier Beach high school at the end of the last school year.

It is just more evidence that students who are most vulnerable- i.e. special education students- are not considered as "equal" with other students in the district.

The message is pretty clear- Seattle public schools- are not going to give you the same help- cause-
even though they have THREE pots of money to educate you- the money that EVERY student in the district receives- PLUS money from the state AND money from the Federal govt- you still are not going to get the same respect that you would if you were outside the school doors.

How we treat our most vulnerable is how we will be judged- no wonder the principal at Rainier Beach can't attract any more students to his school- if this is what he thinks of them.

At issue is an incident this month at Rainier Beach High School, wherein a female student was allegedly sexually assaulted. As the Seattle Post Intelligencer described it:

The victim was in class June 4 when a boy in the class "put his hands on her chest," according to [police]. The victim told police she walked to the hallway, where he continued to harass her, then he cornered her and unzipped her shirt. When the boy did not stop, she hit him and told him to leave her alone, the police report said.

The victim told police she was pushed about 15 feet into the men's bathroom where another boy was washing his hands. One boy watched the door while the other forced her into a bathroom stall and sexually assaulted her, according to the police report. She then forced her way out of the bathroom and later that day told an adult who contacted school officials the next morning.

So what did school officials do? They suspended the boys for three days. Case over. 

Until three weeks later, when the girl herself reported the incident to police, something school officials are supposedly required to do immediately 

Why didn't they? Nobody's saying.

"The situation was investigated and dealt with," said Rainier Beach principal Robert Gary Jr. in the same P-I report.

No, Mr. Gary, it wasn't. Sexual assault is not the same as shooting spitballs in study hall. School authorities can "investigate and deal with" spitballs. Sexual assault, even if the alleged victim is "only" a high school student, is a serious crime. Police are competent to investigate and deal with it. School administrators aren't.

Oddly enough, once the police report was filed, then Rainier Beach suddenly changed its mind and "expelled" the boys involved - three days after the last day of the school year. Some punishment. The district called their pointless expulsion "a formality that will allow district officials and police time to investigate."

Odd. I didn't realize that for Seattle schools, sexual assault in a school bathroom has a statute of limitations that runs out in a few weeks. Makes a lot of sense for a crime in which victims, especially young ones (like, you know, high school students) often don't come forward immediately.

Meanwhile, can't you just see the clear, unambiguous signal Rainier Beach's discipline sent to the guys' buddies?

Assailants: "Hey, dawgs! We got after this b---- and got out of school a few days early for the summer!"

Assailants' friends: "Awesome!"

And the even clearer message it sent to the girls? "Get raped - see your attackers back in class in three days, bragging to their friends."

State law requires school officials to report suspected sexual assault incidents to police. It's district policy to call the cops whenever a crime has been committed on school grounds.

District discipline guidelines call for "long term suspension, monitored attendance and appropriate counseling" for first-time sexual assault offenders. These guys got three days. A slap on the wrist? More like a high-five.

Strangely enough, the same sort of thing happened a month earlier at Ballard High, when a student threatened, in class, to kill another student and the victim, not school officials, wound up filing a police report.

Seattle school officials seem to have a hard time taking their students seriously.

Anonymous said...

Ah, "pots of money": 1 everyone gets, 1 for special and extra needs, 1 federal (not sure about this one)... the school districts in the orignal article chose not to use "pot 1" (the pot everyone gets) to fund students in special education. So, the case really means that the districts are siphoning money AWAY from students in special education. Sped students are actually supporting those in general education. I'd like to see THAT article in the Times, for a change.

SDS didn't participate in the suit, presumably because they can't track any money for any student and have no hope of proving anything about their special education funding either. The Board did direct them to join as a friend. Lame.

Dan Dempsey said...

Anon at 7:24,

You said:
"Seattle school officials seem to have a hard time taking their students seriously."

I do not think it is fair to lump this on all school officials.

The JSCEE admin has a histroy of continuing deception. They obviously have influence over school level administration. Still there are some school level administrators who do attempt to resist these bullies (but not lose their jobs doing so).

This is another sad incident brought to us by an extremely poor management model. How can any student, parent, or citizen have confidence in leadership like this.