Seattle Special Education PTSA Board Weighs In

 Update: from the district on Sped this year.

A lot of good stuff including regional meetings and revamping the Deaf/Hard of Hearing program (thanks to the huge efforts of School Board candidate, Laura Gramer).

However, there was also this gobbly-gook about having "96% of FTE Sped staff positions filled by start of school" and yet they say they have 19 more to fill and hope to have 10 more by the start of school.  And, that last year they had 42 at the start of school.

What exactly does that all mean?  They will hire 10 more people by Thursday?  And what's the actual number this year?

Also, they mention SEAAC but not the Sped PTSA.  Not good.

end of update

Dear Directors, Dr. Nyland, Mr. Knapp and Ms Campano,

The Seattle Special Education PTSA Board and its membership have followed closely the progress of District and SEA contract negotiations. We’re encouraged that the District is finally implementing the best practice service delivery model emphasizing inclusion, as conceived by the Joint Special Education Task Force. This is a plan that has been years in the making. The PTSA stands firm that the ACCESS (inclusion) model be implemented with fidelity to the fundamentals and the spirit of its design.

For that reason, the PTSA Board is dismayed by the District’s bargaining proposal to set untenably high ratios for our secondary students in ACCESS programs. We take issue with the proposed changes for the following reasons (to be elaborated below):

• Special Education at the secondary level needs vast improvement, not backsliding;
• Increased ACCESS ratios impact students with Autism Spectrum disorders the most;
• Less inclusion support at the high school level runs counter to students needs at those grade levels;
• Increased ACCESS ratios will exacerbate the opportunity gap and graduation rate for many classes of our youth;
• Access or inclusion support is not intended to be cheaper than intensive special education; it is a necessary investment to: comply with IDEA mandates; provide a true continuum of placements; and, guarantee the success of our students’ outcomes.

As it stands, the District’s secondary level special education services are frequently silo-ed, rely heavily on “Life Skills” and “Study Skills” cookie-cutter courses or modified academic classes, and offer few opportunities for students in self-contained classrooms to access the breadth of academics, enrichment activities, electives and social settings in high school. Special education at the secondary level needs improvements to achieve a true continuum. The current, widely varying programs violate the IDEA mandate that special education students be offered a continuum of placements and opportunities to be educated in the least-restrictive environment with their typical peers.

The PTSA Board notes that many students in ACCESS are on the Autism Spectrum, have significant disabilities, and would typically be assigned to SM4 classes with opportunities for inclusion. The staffing ratio for SM4 was 8:1:2; SM4 is now called “Distinct” and is proposed at 7:1:2 staffing. This has heretofore provided support for students with ASD in the general education setting. We are pleased to see the district’s continued emphasis on staffing for these students.

The District now proposes to double the ACCESS ratio for high school to 15:1:3 – well beyond the 10:1:3 staffing developed by the Special Education Task Force. Simply because students rise to secondary school does not mean that their needs are any less. Students with disabilities, particularly at the secondary level, are very often required to take special education classes such as “Study Skills” or “Life Skills” to receive the necessary specially designed instruction specified on their IEPs (a defect in the district’s design of special education service delivery in high school). The side-effect of these special education classes is that students have a reduced opportunity to take academic, elective, enhancement and exploratory classes. Failure to consider students with disabilities over the entirety of a school’s offerings weakens their social and academic standing in communities and results in marginalizing students to second class citizen status.

As students age, the significance of inclusion increases, NOT decreases. Students take academics and electives that develop interests and talents which could lead to a wish to stay in school, earn scholarships and train for careers. As the importance of these classes increases, the availability seems to decrease for students with disabilities, even as students with disabilities need these offerings even more. Academic, extracurricular and elective classes provide much needed social connectedness, community engagement, and career preparation. The law requires the District to appropriate support these students and provide equitable access. The ACCESS ratios of 10:1:3 for students with significant disabilities would accomplish this; ratios of 15:1:3 would not.

Denial of our students’ equitable access to all that high school has to offer will further exacerbate the opportunity gap for: students with disabilities, the poor, and students of color too often misidentified as requiring special education. 

Too often these students are enrolled in modified academics classes which are remedial in nature, because this is a convenient way for school buildings to handle these students, track them into specific pathways, and ill-prepare them for post-secondary education or training. Students with disabilities who struggle with minimal support will, at minimum, fall in the gap, and at the worst be forced into more expensive placements – self-contained and out of district placements. This not only costs more money – it ensures a worse educational experience and worse outcome. 

ACCESS/Inclusion is not intended to be a less costly alternative to self-contained; it is a different placement, and a different level and location of service; one required to maintain a “Continuum of Placements”; one that must be resourced enough to succeed lest it become another ICS debacle.

The PTA mission is “To make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children”. Special Education PTSA advocates on behalf of students with disabilities and their families. The PTSA Board asks that the District and the SEA work together to negotiate an agreement that place the welfare and educational outcomes of our students FIRST. Do NOT increase ACCESS ratios and thereby decrease support for our young people trying to make their way into the world.

Cecilia McCormick, President
Lori Hiltz, Co-Vice President
Anne Sheeran, Co-Vice President
Ayn McNutt, Treasurer
Lauren Feaux, Staff Representative


SpedSupporter said…
For those of us who are not literate in all things special education (but who care deeply about the system working right), can someone tell me how SPS proposed ratios compare to other districts considered to be either good or great for special education? Aren't there best practices out there? National groups who advocate for ratios based on great research?

Anonymous said…
That letter is well and good but we all want better ratios in our classrooms no matter what the category of student. This sounds suspiciously like some of the sped community will cry unfair if they don't get the ratios they want and probably they have a long history of being underserved leading to that point. But none of us are going to get fully what we want out of this compromise and that doesn't mean the teachers didn't go to bat for all of our students. I want lower class sizes outside of kindergarten through third and I know I'll be disappointed now and maybe for many years. But I won't blame the SEA for that nor should sped.

GenEd parent
Anonymous said…
by NEAL MCNAMARA, Federal Way Mirror Reporter
Dec 14, 2010 at 3:55PM
The state Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against the Alliance for Adequate Funding of Special Education, a consortium of 11 school districts that wanted to change how the state funds special education.

Federal Way was a plaintiff to the suit that alleged the state was not providing adequate funding for special education students. The alliance held that special education students are costlier than basic education students, forcing districts to use property tax levies to make up the difference.

The court affirmed a previous Court of Appeals ruling that said the plaintiffs must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the state was underfunding special education. The court also maintained that the state’s basic education allocation — or BEA, the amount the state reimburses districts for each pupil — must be considered in the matter.

“When the BEA is included,” wrote majority author Justice Susan Owens, “the Alliance has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the state underfunds special education.”

The BEA funds a portion of a special education student’s costs, but Federal Way officials maintain that it’s not enough.

“The current special education funding system is inadequate. We are disappointed that the court did not recognize that these programs are significantly underfunded, resulting in a negative impact for all children,” said Federal Way Superintendent Robert Neu in a written statement. “The state has a constitutional obligation to provide ample resources for the education of all children.”

Anonymous said…
SEA members will get their money and nothing will improve for our students. Who wants to bet?

Same old
Anonymous said…
GenEd Parent. How would you react if you were told your K-5 student will now be in classrooms with 50 students? Now don't be greedy....

Anonymous said…
GenEd Parent, How would you react if somebody said your blue-eyed child couldn't come to school because, after all, there is a limit to the # of kids with blue eyes in the classroom. Get your head out of the sand!

That said, the Special Education PTSA letter was probably too late to have any bearing on anything.

Anonymous said…
King takes pawn!

Are you telling me SPED PTSA didn't see this coming? We need to know what exactly Wyeth Jesse was negotiating for on behalf of special education.

Same old
Anonymous said…
Same old

That's exactly correct: an end run around by Jesse and friends. If you want to exactly what Jesse was negotiating, look at the SPS proposals.

Same old2
monkeypuzzled said…
GenEd parent, I don't think you understand the issues at stake for these kids. It's not just a matter of "what sped parents want"--it's a matter of fulfilling the law. SPS is out of legal compliance in so many ways already ... it does NOT save money to skimp on sped. The money gets spent in the end, on legal fees, court judgments, the costs of sending kids back to expensive self-contained classrooms when they could thrive if supported in gen end, and especially on private school placements which have been through the roof in recent years--and that's not even talking about the human costs of not doing sped right. I, personally, would rather spend the money on making sure our most vulnerable kids get educated. Society recoups the costs in the end.
Watching in Bleachers said…
... a repeat of my post on the Tuesday Thread...

Just watched Knapp speak to the press on the tentative agreement. Meeting of the SEA Board and Representatives this afternoon to approve of the agreement, and, if so, it goes forward to the membership to vote on this weekend. If approval happens this afternoon with SEA Board & Reps educators are back in buildings tomorrow and classes in session on Thursday... again, only if deal is approved and it all remains tentative until final approval of memberships' vote on weekend.

That being said, I was disappointed to not hear Knapp highlight any movement forward on SpEd issues he seemed to highlight everything else from salary to recess to testing to performance review and hours... but nothing on SpEd. It will be a tragedy if SpEd was yet again played as the sacrificial pawn in this process. ... but I guess we will have to see what this deal looks like.
Anonymous said…
"GenEd Parent, How would you react if somebody said your blue-eyed child couldn't come to school because, after all, there is a limit to the # of kids with blue eyes in the classroom. Get your head out of the sand! "

I have no idea what you are trying to say and blue-eyed child is also often meant to connote racism which has no bearing on this discussion either.

"GenEd Parent. How would you react if you were told your K-5 student will now be in classrooms with 50 students? Now don't be greedy...."

Again I have no idea what you are trying to say. the fact is that there are too few resources for all kindergarten - 12 Seattle students. which was my point. that I will be disappointed in some areas and I bet the sped community will be too. it doesn't mean that there aren't positives from this negotiation and it doesn't mean that the community doesn't recognize sped kids place in school.

GenEd parent

monkeypuzzled said…
To help you understand what Anonymous meant with the "blue eyed child" comment--in the past, disabled kids have been prevented from attending school in a gen ed classroom because there are "too many" kids with disabilities in the classroom already, without enough staff to support them. I believe that's what he/she meant, correct me if I'm wrong.
Anonymous said…
Any more news on the creation of the dept of civil rights inside SPS?

I have a teleconference with the US DOE office of civil rights this week and would like to compare notes. From my understanding, DOE is requiring SPS to do this as apart of its settlement over multiple 504 violations. It's rumored, SPS is in negotiations with the families for large 6 figure settlements.

Kids first
monkeypuzzled said…
To explain the second comment ... the SPS-proposed staffing ratios for the ACCESS inclusion program in high school have almost doubled, from 8:1 to 15:1. This is the equivalent of doubling class size for a typically developing kid, hence a K with 50 students. Ratios that high basically make inclusion impossible--they're the equivalent of scuttling the program.

I'm genuinely trying to explain, because I feel like SPED issues are sometimes opaque for non-SPED parents.
Anonymous said…
If CBA doesn't cover this, then improving SPED ratio, social justice, and solidarity were just convenient meaningless slogans.

Anonymous said…
I also get the impression that Knapp is trying to avoid discussion of SPED because he gave everything away. We will have to wait and see, but saying nothing about it is obviously intentional and very painful for the families. Could he not get this.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Thank you monkeypuzzled. Appreciate the time to spell out the concerns. Guessing the district did the same bargaining tactic used by all sides- to start high and come down somewhere between what other side wants and its initial offering. Again, it doesn't mean that sped kids are being dissed by the SEA if the ratios don't turn out just as the sped community hopes. Also I saw that the lead SEA negotiator is herself a sped teacher. I hope and believe it means she did her best to get the best possible ratios for the sped community and that the same happened for all of our kids, for instance the gen eds, the english language learners.

I weighed in as a parent only because as a blog reader I find so many of these threads filled with ranting sped parents who may or may not be over the top in their perspectives. Who knows, because they are too upset to speak in words that would get nonsped parents to take up their cause. No one wants to have a conversation with a shouter especially when you can't understand them in the first place. So thank you monkeypuzzled for your calm explanation. I hope the final contract does well by sped. My initial point holds that in some areas I expect to be disappointed and no doubt sped will be disappointed in some places. That is what a negotiation is, and when it comes to negotiating with the people downtown I bet we can all agree that most days entail frustration with prying resources away from the headquarters and out to our buildings. It's not a sped-specific problem is what I'm trying to say.

GenEd parent
Floor Pie said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Gen Ed Parent,

As far as I know Special ed is the only group of students with any increase in teacher student ratio on the table in this negotiation, and the only group with that ratio doubling for high school. Also the students who will have less teacher support, if the last proposal is the one accepted, are in gen ed & will impact gen ed classrooms. If the district proposal included doubling class sizes for other students I think we would have heard about it. Though the proposals have been hard to find. It seems many folks did not hear about the special ed ratios in this contract, though the special ed community did march on JSCEE, spoke to the press & sent out all kinds of pleas about it.

-sped parent
monkeypuzzled said…
Dealing with a kid in SPS who has special needs brings out the mama bear in parents, for good or for ill. There's a lot of history behind those rants, in terms of what we've gone through at the hands of the district, and you know what, the stakes are higher for my sped kid than my typically developing kid. They just are. So bear with the rants, if you can.

I'm hearing a lot of nervousness from other SPED parents on social media about ratios/caseloads being the main issue SEA folded on. I hope it's not true. The silence from (and SPS's weird, cheery tweet about SPED) make me fear that it is.
Anonymous said…
Oh, Floor Pie - put your comment back please. It's hard to get to first base with readers like GenEd parent. They know what they know, complacent people who never had to face with families of kids with disabilities face in this district.

Anonymous said…
What was the weird cheery tweet, monkey puzzled?

Anything from Jesse is already weird.

monkeypuzzled said…
"The SPS Special Education team is heading in an exciting direction this school year! Check it out... The SPS Special Education team is heading in an exciting direction this school year! Check it out... "--with a link to this doc:

The timing, it is interesting.
Anonymous said…
It's hard to get to first base with readers like GenEd parent. They know what they know, complacent people who never had to face with families of kids with disabilities face in this district.

Reader, if this is your idea of advocating for your child then I have a very good idea of why you feel you don't get anywhere with the district or probably anywhere in life. SPS is a difficult place to begin with and someone with your demeaning and offensive attitude will no doubt get even less far than the average parent with as you must believe "average" problems. Please do not take it upon yourself to advocate for sped students. You are not helping them.

To sped parent and monkey puzzled thank you for additional information.

GenEd parent
Anonymous said…
Monkey puzzled,

Thanks for posting the link from that tweet. Very weird indeed given that they are pulling the rug out from under our students. Tone deaf. Uncaring. Disconnected. That is the state of things in the Special Education Department. Hopefully the Special Education PTSA won't agree to be part of the window dressing.

Another reader
Floor Pie said…
Thanks, reader, but it's honestly just too painful to engage in the discourse right now. Like, physically, emotionally painful. I'm so done. Going to just enjoy the day with my kids and pretend none of this is happening. I'll write about it someday, but not today.
Jet City mom said…
Doesnt Seattle have a problem finding certificated teachers for SPED?
49 states report a shortage of SPED teachers & related service personnel.
SPED teachers also leave the teaching profession at a rate nearly double that of general ed teachers.
Shouldnt we be working to make it easier to find permanent staff not harder?
mirmac1 said…
GenEd Parent, the Special Education PTSA was not shouting. I believe you were the contrarian at the start of this thread.

There as some among us who believe the SEA proposed ratio of 12:1:3 is doable. I think I'll cross my fingers and hope that is the maximum ACCESS ratio we end up with.
Anonymous said…
Yes, FloorPie, an emotional day for special needs families who have the full burden of promoting our kids' rights to be included in general education classrooms.

We can only hope SEA and SPS haven't dialed the clock back even further on disability rights.

Anonymous said…
I said nothing about the SPED PTSA shouting Mirmac. Do not put words in my mouth. Nor is it contrarian to point out that none of us will get everything we hope for out of a strike.

But now that you are going there, I do think it is interesting that the sped PTSA tried to insert itself into the bargaining process. The GenEd PTSA studiously did not do that in fact it did the opposite. Class size and support is an important issue to many parents not just sped parents.

GenEd parent
monkeypuzzled said…
<throws up hands, runs away)
mirmac1 said…
SEAAC is now a creature of SPS, appointed by Nyland and controlled by Jessee. SpEd PTSA is not. Don't get me wrong, there are some dedicated hardworking volunteers on SEAAC.

I was actually quite happy that SPS agreed to include the PTSA flyer to families with their Back to School notice, at least with the email version. That is the only time we can actually reach 7K students and their families (who have email).
mirmac1 said…
First, there is no "GenEd PTSA". Second, PTSA's may take positions on issues that impact our members and children. They may not advocate for work stoppages. We will absolutely let our feelings be known when it comes to proposed changes that will severely impact our kids.

Yeech, I'm joining you Monkeypuzzeld
monkeypuzzled said…
In another amazing coincidence of timing, SPS just sent me an email offering free emergency day care for kids with special needs.
Anonymous said…
Just in the nick of time! NOT.

Anonymous said…
Sped parent. I suggest that you look closely at abd compare the language between previous CBA and current TA in regards to preschool. High school were not the only students whose services may be (negatively) impacted by a ratio change. While at first look preschoolers seem to be have a higher adult:student support. There previou cap was at 12 IEPS. It is now at 10 (with overages up to 4 PER session). Putting preschool teachers (and their IAs) with the highest caseloads in the district.

--just saying
Anonymous said…
Just saying, where is your info coming from?

Anonymous said…
Just saying,
I am not a sped teacher, but at my elementary school the sped teachers think the negotiated numbers are better for their population. Would they like a lower ratio? Of course. But they are okay with adding one more kid and getting another IA. They felt the flexibility of an added IA washed out having more kids total.
Gen Ed Teach
Anonymous said…
I do want to say even though the numbers for elementary in that one instance may be okay, overall it is hard to watch them not fund sped services at the level it should be served. Personally, I hope OSPI goes after them. How SPS can in good conscience fight to increase caps is beyond me.
Gen Ed Teach
Anonymous said…
Have not seen the contract, but have seen the summary. ESA caseload ratios is a good thing, but not so much SPED.

It says special ed preschool ratio lowered 10:1:2. (Good) Social/emotional classrooms lowered 7:1:2.(Good) SPED taskforce will review special ed costs. Savings will be directed to reduce employee workloads. (Believe it when I see it) Special Ed Team to decide on IA deployment when students are grouped across classrooms in a building. IA maintains primary classroom assignment. (Not sure this is so good, but I don't know)

Pretty vague, not sure in the end what some of this will mean. But overall, look likes it sucks to me. So frustrating! We're just going to waste more money on lawsuits.
Gen Ed Teach
mirmac1 said…
The previous CBA had SpEd PRek at 12:1:2 with typical peers "optional" and on a "voluntary" basis (meaning conscientious teacher would include them at no additional pay!). Yes, out of the goodness of their hearts, SPS would allow our preschoolers to be taught alongside their nondisabled peers - as long as it didn't cost them anything and the teachers sucked it up. This led to a grievance and a civil rights complaint.

So, yeah, guess they figured out that last year's ratios weren't really working.

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