July 31, 2021


by: admin


Tags: education, finds, funding, report, special, streamlined


Categories: Special needs education

Particular training funding needs to be extra streamlined, report finds

Christopher Futcher / iStock

Some special education services, such as physical therapy, are more expensive than others.

Christopher Futcher / iStock

Some special education services, such as physical therapy, are more expensive than others.

To improve accountability and transparency in California’s special education system, funding should bypass local cost-sharing consortia and go directly to school districts, according to a new report released Thursday.

The report, produced by researchers at independent consultancy West Ed, is the second in a two-part study of ways to improve funding for the 725,000 California students with disabilities in K-12 public schools. The report, funded by private foundations, is presented to the governor, legislature and other state officials.

“What we have seen is that the cost continues to rise, but we are not seeing any significant change in the results. We’re not bridging the gap, ”said Sara Doutre, senior program associate at West Ed, referring to the differences in academic performance between special education students and those who don’t.

“By updating its funding formula, the state has a chance to communicate its priorities – that we have the most inclusive practices possible for children in special education,” she said. “The goal is to make sure that the right funding goes to the right agency to help the right student.”

The researchers examined data over three years, from 2016-17 through 2018-19, related to cost, demographics, academic performance, locality, and other variables of the 6.2 million K-12 students in California, not just special education teachers. They focused not on the amount of money California spends on special education, but on how the money is spent and how it relates to student outcomes.

Carl Cohn, former chairman of the country’s special education task force, called the report long overdue. In 2015, the Task Force published a report that came to a similar conclusion that the special and general education systems should be more harmonized.

“The idea that special education should remain segregated, segregated and isolated in terms of funding is untenable,” Cohn said Thursday. “All children and students with disabilities must first be viewed as general education students. … The premise of (local control) is that students in greatest need deserve additional funding at the local level, the place where real change is made if we really want different results. “

In California, money for special education is channeled through the Local Plan Areas for Special Education, which can span numerous school districts. Districts should share the costs and resources related to special education, especially for high-need students.

The SELPA system isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t need a radical overhaul, said Anjanette Pelletier, SELPA director for San Mateo County and chair of the Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education. The bigger problem, she said, is the amount of money California spends on students with special needs. Despite the $ 656 million federal grant increase this year, schools and counties are still striving to cover the cost of speech therapy, tutors, physical therapy, technology, equipment, and other specialized educational services.

“They talk about moving money from one bucket to another that won’t solve the problem or improve efficiency,” she said.

The reason the results haven’t improved is because California has had a steady increase in the number of students with costly conditions like autism. In 2018-19, California schools had around 114,000 students with autism, nearly three times as many as in 2008-09, according to the California Department of Education.

With this in mind, the West Ed researchers suggested that California follow the example of Massachusetts and other states in distributing funds based not on student attendance but on student needs. For example, schools would receive more money for students with high needs, such as those with orthopedic impairments, and less money for students with relatively inexpensive treatable conditions such as language disabilities.

The researchers did not suggest that SELPAs completely dissolve, only that they play a lesser role – a major step in the state’s goal of adding more students with disabilities to general education classrooms, said Jason Willis, director of strategic resource planning and implementation at West Ed and an author of the report.

Maureen Burness, former co-director of the state’s Special Education Task Force, said it makes sense to divert money away from SELPAs in larger districts when the district and SELPA serve the same group of students. A better way to reduce bureaucracy would be to group smaller districts into larger ones, which could make for more efficiency.

But defusing SELPAs in small counties could be financially devastating, Burness said. Just one or two costly college students could potentially bankrupt the entire district, she said.

Veronica Coates, SELPA director for Tehama County, raised similar concerns.

“I have (local education agencies) with a small number, including one-room schoolhouses. Our SELPA is very networked and has an exceptional collaboration that ensures that every student in our region is offered a continuum of services that is not dependent on their zip code, ”she said. “Changing the allocation model could be catastrophic for small LEAs and I am very concerned about the unintended consequences.”

The 140-page report contained dozens of other insights, including:

  • It costs 50% more to train students with disabilities to achieve the same level of academic performance as their non-disabled classmates. Students with different needs, such as low-income people or English learners, cost more;
  • English learners were placed disproportionately in special schools;
  • Placing students with disabilities in private schools cost more and students showed less progress than if they stayed in a local public school. White students were more likely to be placed in private schools.

Michael Kirst, Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University and past President of the State Board of Education, praised the report.

“What strikes me is the demand for differentiated funding for the different needs of students with disabilities. This seems to confirm research aimed at ensuring that students in greatest need receive additional funding, ”he said. “Funding for students with disabilities in California public education has not been studied as thoroughly in over twenty years. It is long overdue. “

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