How Americans would slim down public education

12 Aug

With economic troubles in the U.S. and worldwide continuing for years, schools are facing tough decisions.  A recent survey, How Americans would slim down public education, in the U.S. taps into the public’s support for education in general and also for special education. 

With budget shortfalls predicted for schools (at least in the area I know best: California) people are thinking of how to react in case of budget shortfalls.  There is no support for increasing taxes to support schools, instead “dramatically changing how [schools] do business”:

End Business as Usual
Which would be the best approach for your district to take if it was facing a serious budget deficit?

48% Cut costs by dramatically changing how it does business.

26% Change as little as possible; wait for times to get better

11% Rely on tax increases

7%  Something else

8%  Don’t know

Which begs the question of how dramatic changes might affect special education.  While there is broad support for special education, there is a strong sentiment that there are children in special ed who do not belong:

When it comes to budget cuts, special education is not immune as far as most Americans are concerned. That’s not to say the commitment of Americans to educate children with special needs is waning—it’s not. But they have concerns about the growth, cost, and effectiveness of serving these kids well.

The overwhelming majority of the public, 83 percent, believes that “the public schools have a moral obligation to educate kids with special needs and learning disabilities, even if it’s more difficult and expensive to do so.”

76 percent believe that “too many students are being mislabeled as having special needs when they just have behavior problems or weren’t taught well in the first place.”

71 percent believe that special education programs should be “evaluated according to whether they help students learn—when students don’t learn, the programs should be replaced

The public is split on supporting the law’s provisions that cost should not be a factor in deciding a special education placement:

According to federal law, districts are required to provide special education services, but they are not allowed to consider the costs of those services. Do you think districts should be allowed to weigh costs when considering which special education services to choose, or do you think the law should be left as is?

44 Districts should be allowed to weigh costs when considering which special education services to choose

47 The law should be left as is

9 [Vol.] Don’t know

There is a lot more discussion in the report on ways schools could (e.g. cut pay, change retirement) and should not (e.g. lay off faculty) reduce costs. More can be found in the report.

Most people think that their schools are an asset to thrir community , but also that the schools have been hit hard by the recession and (77%) that the financial problems will last a long time.

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By Matt Carey

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One Response to “How Americans would slim down public education”

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