-By Bev Johns
“The most burdensome aspects of special education mandates identified in the survey were underfunding from state government and class sizes, especially concerning the required ratio of students with special needs to those without.” [the regulation that students with disabilities shall not constitute more than 30 percent of a general education classroom, known as the 70/30 regulation]
The Governor’s Office, working with the leadership of the Illinois State Board of Education, is working on a package of Educational Mandates to be eliminated in any Grand Bargain or Grand Compromise or as a stand-alone Mandate Relief Bill.
The number one special ed target: Special Education Class Size Regulations.
Governor Rauner has been pushing the recommendations of the Lt. Governor Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates.
The Final Report of that Task Force shows that Special Education mandate relief is the highest priority for local school districts – Burden Ranking of 2.3 where 1 is the most burdensome. (Table 15. Prioritization of Mandates for Illinois School Districts)[the next highest is Instructional Mandates, 3.5, then Prevailing Wage, 4.5, Workers Compensation, 4.8, Physical Education, 4.9, etc.]
Special Education was the most mentioned mandate in the survey of local school districts, discussed by 19.7 percent. (Figure 8. Frequency of Mandates Discussed – By Category)[next highest is Physical Education, 16.7 percent, then Prevailing [Wage, 15.2 percent, Instructional Mandates, 13.6 percent, Drivers Education, 8.3 percent, Workers Compensation, 7.6, etc.]
The Final Report of the Task Force states:
“The Task Force voted to endorse 27 specific proposal recommendations. All recommendations, endorsed or submitted, are included in this report to the Governor and Illinois General Assembly.”
“The three most burdensome mandates identified by school districts were special education, instructional mandates, and prevailing wage.”
“Twenty-four survey respondents provided cost estimates for special education, of which 25% of school districts estimated costs between $2 million and $5 million, and 17% estimated costs exceeding $5 million.
“The most burdensome aspects of special education mandates identified in the survey were underfunding from state government and class sizes, especially concerning the required ratio of students with special needs to those without.”
Note that despite the statement that UNDERFUNDING FROM STATE GOVERNMENT for special education is most burdensome, ISBE is recommending that $305 million be taken away from special education and given to General State Aid.