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July 7, 2020
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Special education funding complicated

By: Irene Hilsendager
September 6, 2019

Being a curious individual, the office of Superintendent Michael Watenpaugh and special education head Rachel Allen was last week’s destination.

Since the Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District is mainly responsible for a free appropriate education, it is a shock to some parents that it is not the federal or state government that provides funding for special education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires states to provide children with special education services as a condition of receiving federal funds.

Understanding special education funding is very complicated. After reading the notes handed across the table, information became even more complicated. During my teaching era, no one had heard of IDEA or FAPE or specialized teaching or having aides and tutors in the classroom for children with disabilities. Teachers had to have patience and many a day of frustrations. Now the federal government provides three special funding grants under IDEA. The largest called IDEA Part B supports special education programs for K-12. Two smaller grans also support preschool programs and also programs for infants and families.

Another shocking statement is most states estimate that special education money from the federal government makes up less than 15 percent. On an average this leaves the local district seeking to fund the remaining costs of mandated special education services. Part B of IDEA has authorized Congress to kick in contributions of up to forty percent of the average per student expenditure and as usual this has not happened and may not in the near future.

Local school districts have a mantra “We have no money” especially when it comes to explaining the increase of class sizes, laying off “newbie” teachers, cutting extra-curricular activities and trying to explain the extreme loss of specialists. Stats show the United States special education students are increasing daily, but the funding has not kept up with expenses.

Hearing the increase in numbers of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and most these youngsters require designated instructional services. But with the severe shortage of speech and language therapists, most school districts cannot afford to out-source these jobs.

Children with special needs have rights to services offered in school under federal and state laws. Almost six million students in the United States receive special education serves under the IDEA. Most special education students spend the biggest part of the day in general education classrooms.

How do parents determine if their child has special needs? As a parent you may request an evaluation of your child to determine their needs for special education. Your child’s evaluation must be conducted by a trained and knowledgeable individual.

There are many types of services available to students with disabilities. There is a special day class (SDC) which is quite small with no more than 8-10 students based on the age in which the students are in that classroom all day with a credentialed special education teacher along with paraprofessionals in that class. There are also classes that a student needing extra help in a certain subject and will attend a class with a certain number of minutes and days per week. And along with that there are classes that do not require students to be self-contained all day but a certain number of minutes and days per week. Push in classes are that the student is in a general education class with added support.

Push out classes are for students to be pulled out for the added support. Supplementary services on an IFP are to help the student with the use of large print, use of a calculator, more time for testing, reading instructions out loud, has time with the teacher and needs to sit in front of the classroom.

School psychologists collaborate with educators, parents, other professionals to make sure there is a safe, healthy and supportive learning environment.

IDEA requires children to have an Individual Education Program (IEP) in order to receive special education services under the law. The purpose of the IEP is to set reasonable learning goals for the child and to state the services that the local district provides. There are several provisions within the IDEA safeguarding parental involvement in education. Parents have the right to be involved in the development of their child’s IEP.

Parents may ask if their child can participate in physical education classes and there is a federally mandated component of special education services that ensures that physical education is provided to the student with a disability as part of their child’s special education services.

The Board of Trustees and the special education committee met in Feb., Mar., April and May to discuss shred goals. To gain the understanding of the scope of programs, and to determine if there are gaps so that development needs are met.

Through its analyses, the committee found that CRPUSD had dedicated and has very knowledgeable staff working in special education district wide. CRPUSD has special day classes in every level to support students with more intensive academic, social and behavioral needs and that CRPUSD has the number of students served in district classes rather than county programs.

CRPUSD will increase parent education opportunities and meaningful IFP participation by offering a district parent information night and provide information on SELPA level parent group and professional development opportunities at ever IEP. There are day classes at John Reed, Monte Vista and Evergreen Schools.

Thank you to the district office for the information provided.