Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Nov 22
Profile photo of Dennise Goldberg

by Dennise Goldberg

I planned on taking the week off from writing my blog since my son with a learning disability is off from school, but that was before I read Education Week’s most recent article, “Even on IDEA's 35th, Special Ed Dollars Aren't Free.” Education week claims to be America’s education newspaper and website of record, but clearly doesn’t represent one of the largest portions of the student age population, the Special Education Demographic. Did you know that more than 13% of all students in the United States receive special education? This represents more than 6 million students across the United States. If you haven’t read Education Week’s rebel rousing article, I think this quote sums it up best:

“As we try to better serve children with special needs, it's vital to recognize that we don't have endless resources--and that open-ended promises to some mean stripping resources away from others.”

This statement is clearly written by someone that hasn’t taken the time or made the effort to read or research the Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA does not make an open ended promise and only requires that special education students receive a Free APPROPRIATE Public Education. The main purpose of the above quote is to evoke a reaction of discrimination towards special education students and bring more readers to Education Week. Special Education doesn’t strip services away from others. Services are being stripped away because School Districts are mismanaged and rather than blame themselves they have made Special Education into the scapegoat of the day. The author of the column even knows what he is doing because he goes on to say:

“Now, past experience teaches that this little post will garner more than the usual amount of irate comments from the very organized, very sympathetic special needs lobby--but this really shouldn't register as a radical plea.”

Of course, it should register as a radical plea. The article is asking the general public to discriminate against the Special Education population out of ignorance for the law. The purpose of IDEA is “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living 1400 (d)(1)(A)”. There is no open ended promises and the law is specifically trying to invest in the special education population today rather than wait until it’s too late and they need to pay even more in the future.

The real problem with special education is how the School Districts are choosing to spend their money. A large amount of money is being spent by School Districts on legal fees to skirt their responsibility under IDEA. If they spent that money on additional training for their staff there would be no reason for these large legal fees. Did you know when reauthorizing IDEA in 2004 Congress found that, “high quality, comprehensive professional development programs are essential to ensure that the persons responsible for the education or transition of children with disabilities possess the knowledge and skills necessary to address the educational and related needs of those children”? All children can learn. Let me say it again, all children can learn. There are some great teachers out there but even the best teacher needs to be trained on proven, research-validated, alternative and reliable methods of teaching.

It’s the same old story, when budgets are robust everyone’s happy but as soon as budgets begin to shrink who can we blame for our problems. Unfortunately, the Special Education population becomes the easiest target to discriminate against. I hope you will join me in boycotting Education Week. If you are one of their 30,000 plus followers on twitter please stop following them. The great thing about the United States is that while we are all allowed free speech there are also repercussions that come along with that free speech. Let’s show Education Week there are repercussions to discrimination.

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4 Responses to “Even on IDEA’s 35th, Discrimination and Ignorance runs rampant”

  1. Dennise,

    While I understand your frustration I believe there are, at least, three good reasons why the article in general is accurate. First, although at the adoption of IDEA, the federal government was to ultimately provide the bulk of funding, this never happened, leaving the burden on the LEA’s. The truth that flows from that is although we say expense can’t be a defensible issue for limitation of available services, there is a limited universe of funds. School Administrators and Boards of Education have no choice but to balance out everyone’s legitimate needs. finally we classify as eligible far too many students, many of whom would best be served by, also scarce, but more appropriate interventions in general education. This leads in my estimation to an intolerable and morally dubious situation where children truly in need of services may not receive what they need because special education dollars are being directed either to services to children inappropriately classified or providing services beyond what is needed for fape because of parental and advocate pressure. Don’t misunderstand I am no suggesting that School Districts are always right or operate from the most noble of motivations; but somewhere in all of this we need to take a pause and assess what special education should really be about and how as a society we respond to those children with legitimate claims on our resources.

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    • Wow I could really use this for Brynnon. I am new to going to the plbuic school for anything. I find myself going in that direction and will have to ask them for services for Brynnon as a Home Schooled child. If he does well with that, I may just let him stay in plbuic school. His Epilepsy and brain malformation has him now at a entry 1st grade Reading level, and a mid 2nd Grade Math level. His IEP says he needs Language, Speech and other Therapy along with other things that I am unable to afford privately nor provide to him. Looks like a great resource!! ~DeniseDenise recently posted..

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  2. Hi WIlliam,

    Thank you for your comment, I am always willing to have a meaningful discussion on Special Ed. That is why one of my many problems with the Rick Hess article is that he is disguising discrimination as a discussion. He improperly describes IDEA to the general public in order to incite an emotional repsonse. IDEA really only guarantees access and “some educationl benefit”. His article claims IDEA gives an open ended promise.

    With respect to funding, you are correct, the federal government has never fully funded the law. This does not dimish the fact that General education programs are being cut, not becuase of special ed, but rather because of poor School Board management.

    My local school district spent $6 million on a new accounting program that didn’t work and paid all of the employess incorrectly for 6 months before anyone knew. They then spent even more money to fix the program and audit all of the incorrect paychecks. The original accounting software worked just fine. This is just one small example.

    By pointing the finger at special education in the manner that Rick Hess did he is trying to move us back 35 years to a Nation that denies access to some children. Yes, we need special education reform, but what we really need is just plain old education reform. The entire system needs to be fixed, don’t blame special education for all of the problems of the educational system in the United States.

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  3. Limited funds are a problem when we choose to make it a problem. I was around in the ’70’s when the first law was written with 75% fed funding. That never happened and altho0ugh funding was in the 60% range, it diminished quickly. It’s a;; about priorities.

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