Special Education: thoughts on reform

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I just read an article about Vermont, and how they have signed a special education reform bill.  it proposes that it will give funding to those programs that are proven successful stating:

“It’s expected to save Vermont taxpayers at least $2 million next year, the governor’s office said. Those savings rise to $34 million annually in 2024.”

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“The new law improves the way the state manages special education funding, including shifting from a block grant and reimbursement system to a census-based grant built on the best, evidence-based educational practices,” according to a statement released by the governor’s office. “Other provisions of the law modify the thresholds determining the amount the state reimburses and how independent schools will be reimbursed for services provided for students who require special services.”

There are two thoughts that come to mind:

(1) This is great! This special education reform will encourage the services that will truly improve outcomes for special needs students. This is because only those with positive, proven outcomes will get funded!

(2) This special education reform supports the status quo,  because currently, states need only provide an appropriate education for special needs students.  That language, in my personal experience can be interpreted in many ways.   It might instead, encourage schools to set the bar low to ensure goals are met – in order to get funding.

Will reform help?

Will this law propel our educators to do better with our special needs children?  Or will it support doing the bare minimum (with goals and outcomes that match) in order to get funding?

I’d like to say “only time will tell,” however, we don’t always have time. I watch with angst as the knowledge gap between my kid and her typical peers continues to grow.

We need it NOW

In my case, I’ve followed all of the traditional steps to address my daughter’s reading knowledge gap.  This includes meetings with teachers, therapists, requests for services in writing, updated IEP, and (outside) clinical testing to prove learning ability, all to no avail.  We have now sought out legal help, read more about that here.  Unfortunately, that also takes time, and money.

It’s the place many of us find ourselves, but rarely talk about:  When you can’t afford to fight the power, at the expense of your child.

We need to demand outcome measures as part of any special education reform.  YES, all of our children learn at different rates, and in different ways, but perhaps there should be some minimum standards to help everyone strive for what is appropriate.

In the meantime, we wait.  We fight.  Explore outside interventions.  Do the best we can to give our kids the best possible chance.

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