Senator Andy Manar goes after special education.

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-Bev Johns

State Senator Andy Manar wants to take away money from special education to increase General State Aid for school districts like those in his district.

For Manar, it is all about the money, with little thought on how this would affect programs for students with disabilities.

The problem is that Manar does not propose improvements, but instead an entirely new, ever-changing, completely untested Grand Formula which is becoming so complex it will be as hard to understand as are the current formulas. AND it is all about the money and who gets it – almost NO attention is being paid to the dedicated and specific funding needed to provide programs for special education. The Manar block grant for special education will create all kinds of opportunities for abuse as NO ONE is now or will in the future actively and aggressively monitor special education spending.

Manar wants a block grant for a vague category guessing at how many students with disabilities there are in Ilinois. His bill states that ISBE should decide in the future on a figure “representative” of the number of students with disabilities.

We can count the number of students with IEPs in Illinois – no one knows how many students with disabilities there are in Illinois.

The Manar bill would base special ed funding on the assumption that each and every school district has 13.8 percent of its students as students with disabilities.

If a school district identifies 10 percent of its students as needing IEPs, it would still receive State money as if it had 13.8 percent. If that school district reduced the number to 7 percent, it would still receive State money based on 13.8 percent.

It his latest version (Manar is changing his proposal each time he re-introduces it), he says ISBE can approve up to 18.8 percent of a particular school district students as being students with disabilities.

Why can Chicago keep laying off or firing special ed teachers and paraprofessionals? Because Chicago has a special ed Block Grant.

Chicago receives exactly the same amount of State money for special education if it has 10,000 special education teachers or if it has 8,000 special ed teachers (or 5,000 for that matter).

The rest of Illinois has Special Education Personnel Reimbursement which gives a State payment of $9,000 for each special education teacher and other professionals providing direct services, full-time, to students with IEPs. If these school districts fire or lay off a special ed teacher, they lose $9,000.

While Special Ed Personnel Reimbursement is supposed to pay 1/2  of a special ed teachers salary, the $9,000 is less than 1/3 of the very lowest STARTING SALARY in Illinois, and is less than 1/5 of the average salary. But it is DIRECTLY tied to providing special education to students with IEPs.

Changing all the school funding formulas in Illinois is NOT just about money and who gets it.

It is about critical programs for children.

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