I have had two kinds critical reactions to my coverage of the cuts to special education in Democratic Senator Andy Manar’s SB 231.
Some friends wonder why, in the face of massive budget cuts to schools, I am talking about special education cuts.
Others think I should oppose the entire bill as a half-hearted effort which falls far short off what our schools need.
I understand both of these concerns.
Yet, there is this:
There is nothing in Manar’s school funding change plan that would directly fund special education teachers or other professionals working with students with disabilities.
As I have written, Senate Bill 231 would move categorical grants, money that must be spent on special education, to block grants that can be spent on anything.
I worked with Special Needs students for nearly 30 years. I know that if dollars aren’t earmarked for special education, more likely than not, they won’t get spent on special education.
My district would claim that IEPs were being met even though they were not providing people to meet them. Every year our district would cut the number of paraprofessionals we had. We would spend the first trimester fighting to get them back. If they cut six, we finally would get three.
This would happen every year.
If Manar’s bill moves one out of every three dollars targeted for special education into the district’s general fund it would be a cut to a category of students. Those dollars are there to create an even playing field for students with disabilities.
It is a cut of funding to students because of who they are.
New plans are being presented this week by Senate Republicans and by House Democrats.
We need to fight for more revenue and more dollars to schools and students and not cave to Rauner’s austerity agenda.
But also work to make sure that $9,000 for each special education teacher remains in any change to the state education funding formula.
Direct and dedicated funding is critical to assure that students with disabilities have the specially trained teachers they need.
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