State Rep. Kim Williams (D-19) has introduced a bill to provide State funding for basic special education in kindergarten through the third grade. Currently, and oddly, funding for special education classes does not begin until the 4th grade. “This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term. Pursuant to its terms, funding for K-3 special education will be phased in gradually over 4 years.” This bill also has some bipartisan support, as Republican Representatives Briggs King and Spiegelman have co-sponsored the legislation.
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS
SPONSOR: Williams, Poore, Bennett, Bentz, Briggs King, Heffernan, Jaques, Kowalko, Lynn, Matthews, Osienski, Paradee, Smith, Spiegelman, Viola
HISTORY: Reported out of the House Education Committee with 4 Favorables and 9 on the Merits.
STATUS: Assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.
100% behind this bill. My only concern, as with all new education spending with the way things are set up now, is the zero-sum game. Enacting this change in special education services will require additional monies to be appropriated to education, with the State facing a rather large budget gap this year it’s all but safe to assume the money will be “un-appropriated” from somewhere else.
We really need a better way to fund education.
First off, special education is supposed to be funded through Federal funds via IDEA. Even JEFF f’king SESSIONS has noted that the Feds have NEVER funded it above 60% and usually fund it about 47% of full funding required by Federal law.
So the State is attempting to backfill a gap in Federal funding. It may surprise nobody to learn that as far as I know Delaware’s Congressional delegation has never taken up the cause to advocate for full IDEA funding. Maybe Lisa Blunt Rochester will take that on.
There are a variety of places in the education budget where this money could be found if legislators were serious about full funding for special education. For example, the State of Delaware partially subsidizes bus transportation and school nurses for private (not charter–private) schools. (This will passing back to the public school districts the cost of transporting homeless kids to school, by the way.)
The simplest way to find the money to fund this would be to end all of the RTTT positions funded at DE DOE under our original grant and continued by DOE with State funds after the Federal funds ran out. None of those positions actually impacts the quality of public education in a positive way. This would save something like $3-4 million/year.
Then you could get DE DOE out of the business of closely monitoring higher education teacher preparation programs–they’ve developed a whole new office for that. The reality is that every major teacher prep program in the State has to undergo CAEP accreditation, which is far more invasive and has far higher standards than DE DOE. This would easily save another $2-5 million/year.
Of course part of this is moot, as DE DOE engaged in a pilot Federal (read corporate) program to gut IEPs for Special Education by demanding that the objectives be tied to high-stakes testing instead of the student’s level of function. The other thing that both US DOE and DE DOE have done to gut Special Education is insert another hoop that parents are supposed to jump through before their child is evaluated for Special Services. This is called “Response to Intervention,” and it is used to make parents believe the school is actually doing something for their kids, when in reality they aren’t. I have sat in IEP meetings and watched school officials (at district prodding) imply to parents that they must give RTI “a try” before requesting evaluation for 504 or IEP–this is blatantly untrue, by the way–you can request an evaluation for special services at any time (as long as you do it in writing) and the school HAS TO do it within 60 days. But as long as they can use RTI to con you out of putting it in writing …