Grand Jury says special education underfunded

1 Jul

This sounded like it could be a good news story. Grand Jury says special education underfunded is a news story out of Ridgecrest California. (If you aren’t familiar with the geography, Ridgecrest is in the southern part of the Owens River valley north of LA in what would be a desert/rural area except for China Lake military base and Edwards Air Force Base).

I was hoping for something in the story pointing out that the amount of money going into Special Education was too low. Not that I want to hear that our good friends in Ridgecrest but, hey, I assume they aren’t getting the funding they need in these tough times.

The story starts out with the cost of Special Ed in the district:

The Sierra Sands Unified School District spent nearly $4.14 million for special education, and nearly $421,000 came from the district’s general fund, according to a just-released Kern County Grand Jury report. The district also spent nearly $11,000 for transportation.

They then make a statement I see all too rarely:

The report said the children of California are entitled to a free and appropriate education by court and legislative mandate.

They got it right. The children of California are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Not “the special education students” as is all too often the focus. No, all children are entitled to FAPE.

We just don’t hear people complaining about the mandate to provide FAPE to non special ed students. And this is where the story starts down that path:

“Like many mandates, the mandating authorities do not fully fund the mandated services,” the report stated. “In 2010-11, the Kern County Grand Jury studied all of the school districts in Kern County to determine costs above and beyond the funds that come to them from the state and federal governments for special education.”

Guess what. The districts pay more for regular students than they get from state and federal government allotments, too. Heck, from what I’ve seen, the state and federal governments don’t live up to their commitments to the mainstream population either, leaving the local governments to backfill.

The term “unfunded mandates” is used a lot. In some ways, it might be better if the IDEA hadn’t promised any money to the local school districts. That way the focus would be on the term “mandated”, not “unfunded”. Then we could ask a simple question: why does the federal government have to mandate that special education students receive an appropriate education? Shouldn’t it be just assumed that all children have a right to an appropriate education? Why do we even question this for special ed students?

You can read the rest of the story. It’s short. But again, I have to ask, why do we have to mandate an appropriate education for special education students? Why single them out? Everyone deserves an appropriate education.

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