In a cartoon I posted yesterday I pointed out that the state of Illinois spends over three times the money to incarcerate our people as we do to educate them.
The school funding crisis is getting worse. Governor Rauner’s austerity agenda is one reason, but the entire political leadership of the state, Republicans and Democrats, have plenty to answer for.
The assault on special education funding is a hidden part of the funding crisis.
The purpose of direct and dedicated special education categorical funding is to insure that this group of our students has as equal a chance to learn as their typical classmates.
Ending direct and and dedicated funding to special education programs goes after one group of students because of who they are. It would be no different than passing a bill that allows school districts to say we have the right to reduce spending to other categories of students because of their race or gender.
It is bad enough that the state already practices race and class discriminatiion through a funding system that is based on local property taxes. It is a system in which the per student expenditure between rich and poor districts can amount to multiples of five or six.
Democratic State Senator Andy Manar’s SB 231 is supposed to address the inequities in funding by moving money from wealthy districts to poor ones.
But there is very little additional funding included in the bill.
It is funded by cuts to categorical grants that serve special needs students.
Special education advocate Bev Johns writes me:
Both Senate Bill 231 and the evidenced-based plan are based on formula special education Block Grants which completely eliminate direct and dedicated funding for special ed teachers.
SB 231 would eliminate direct categorical special ed funding for special education teachers and other professionals, and put in its place a formula assuming every school district in Illinois has the same exact percentage of students in special ed.
1.0 positions per 141 students for services for students with mild and moderate disabilities.
Includes special ed teachers and the related services of speech/hearing pathologies and/or OT PT as well as related social workers.
1.0 psychologist per 1,000 students to overview IEP development and ongoing review.
This is not one (1) special ed teacher per 141 students, but instead one (1) position for special ed teachers plus speech/hearing plus OT, plus PT, plus social workers per 141 students.
And the reseach-based source for this? Vermont!
It would be hard to find a State more different from Illinois than Vermont.
Please contact your Illinois representatives in the General Assembly.
Here is what you should say:
Please make sure that the $9,000 for each special education teacher remains in any school funding bill.
Direct and dedicated funding is critical to assure that students with disabilities have the specially trained teachers they need.
Say that both Senate Bill 231 and the evidence-based plan eliminate direct funding of special ed teachers and replace it with block grants that can be spent for any purpose.
Don’t know who your state senator and state representative are?