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Policy Post – Avoiding One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

June 7, 2010

Court’s Kids will periodically provide some background information on special education policy from the federal level down to individual school programs.

Despite more cheery news about the economy, the situation remains very dire for states and school districts around the country. The hard days are far from over. Recently, Detroit Public Schools announced that it would reduce summer programs for special education. Instead of the normal five days a week, the change would move it to three days. These summer programs are essential in not only building skills but combating regression.  Several other school systems in the area are considering making the same move toward the minimum requirements. Similarly, Los Angeles is  proposing 200 special education classes be eliminated, impacting the critical student-teacher ratio just as that school district was making “incremental but real progress” after a 1993 lawsuit highlighted startling deficiencies.

These are significant set backs that push special education further toward the “minimum requirements” rather than thoughtful innovation. From coast to coast, parents and teachers fought for these improvements that went beyond the black letter law and loopholes in the mandates. Little by little, the quality of education improved thanks to their efforts. What will happen when these school districts eventually bounce back? How long will special education just get by, once the coffers get more full? Right now, the cuts receive public scrutiny in the press, but months later they will fade from the public’s memory. Their impact will still be felt though and this is why the needs and gaps we try to fill won’t be any less critical when the economy bounces back. The past efforts can’t be in vain and the drive for innovation and real improvement must continue.

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