Good morning all,
Some of you may know me, but for those who don’t, I am a concerned parent of a special needs child in Delaware. He was denied an Individualized Education Program in 3rd grade at a Delaware charter school even though he fully qualified for it.
As a result of this event, I set out to look into Delaware education and all facets surrounding it, which led to the creation of my blog, Exceptional Delaware. One of the first things I discovered was that students who qualify for basic special education do not receive funding for this in Kindergarten to 3rd grade. Students in 4th to 12th grade do. As a result of this, many students in these grades are denied IEPs all over our state. Many times this results in special education lawsuits filed against school districts and charter schools. I firmly believe this also sets up these children with disabilities for failure. By not getting the funding they are entitled to at a state level, this results in the local education agency bearing the brunt of these costs. The federal IDEA funding has never been at the level that it was originally intended for.
There are current plans in the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan for Wilmington students to grant Red Clay Consolidated School District the basic special education funds for students in K-3 in FY 2017. This would also include the current Christina students enrolled in Wilmington schools should the redistricting plan pass the State Board of Education and the 148th General Assembly. In FY2018, this funding would be provided to the entire Christina School District, and in FY2019 to Colonial, Brandywine, and the Wilmington charter schools. While the plan doesn’t specifically give a timeframe for the rest of the state, the commission does urge our state to provide these funds as soon as possible for all of Delaware.
I have grave issues with this as all students in this category should be entitled to these funds. While I am vehemently against the use of standardized test scores to determine school accountability levels, by the very nature of these plans it would set up some schools to do better than others in Delaware. In the Delaware Department of Education’s goals submitted to the US Department of Education for their ESEA Flexibility waiver, the DOE had growth goals for Delaware. For students with disabilities, they want them to go from 19% proficiency from FY 2015 to 59% proficiency in FY 2021. By giving certain schools and districts this funding, it sets up a disproportionate funding mechanism that benefits some over others.
There are other concerns with this as well. If a 1st grade student should happen to transfer from Red Clay to Indian River, would that basic special education funding follow them?
As a parent of a special needs child, I find this lack of funding for students who are at the foundation of their education experience to be highly disturbing. The current budget plans call for a huge influx of funding for early education, in the hopes of preventing rising costs for special education. What I find to be not included in this conversation is the fact that disabilities in children are neurological. I’m not saying they can’t be accommodated for a better educational outcome, but why would we give all this money to early education centers and then leave these students out to dry when they are brought into elementary school? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. While I certainly appreciate the needs of Wilmington students, I feel it is funding that should be available for all students in Delaware. Special education is a federal mandate if a student qualifies. By not providing the necessary state funding, we are failing these children. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of districts not providing services, even with an approved IEP. While no school or district will ever come out and say it, it is because of a lack of funding in most cases.
For any student who has gone through special education in Delaware at this age, the results are very cumbersome and painful for the student and their parents or guardians. Parents are forced to fight a system where, in many cases, they are branded as a difficulty. Students are disciplined based on behaviors that are neurologically based, and because they don’t have an IEP, it results in severe problems for the student as they grow. Many students who are denied IEPs and don’t receive these services can and do fall into the complex and intensive special education categories later on because these services were not provided at an earlier age. This happened with my own child.
I urge the Joint Finance Committee to provide the basic special education funding for ALL K-3 students in Delaware. This isn’t really an option, but a basic civil rights issue that separates Delaware from many other states. It is their federal right to receive a “Free Appropriate Public Education”. By forcing districts and charters to sign an IEP indicating they will make sure the district has adequate funding to provide special education services is not proportionate to the state funding provided for students in all grades. As well, by providing this funding for some but not all, it could certainly put the state into a precarious legal position should parents collectively band together to address this issue.
Currently, House Bill 30, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams is in the Appropriations Committee of the General Assembly where it has been since March 26th of last year. I would urge the JFC to allow the funding for this legislation to be provided in the Delaware FY 2017 budget so these children can get the services Delaware has a moral imperative to provide.
If anyone has any questions or concerns surround this issue, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
I sent this out a couple of hours ago and have not received a response from anyone. Which is fine, but I sincerely hope it will be brought up in their discussions today with the Department of Education. If it is, I am fairly certain the DOE will bring up what is known as Response to Intervention (RTI) and how this is a very useful tool for schools to identify students who may qualify for special education services. This is one of the biggest fallacies in American education and does not cover many areas that could qualify a child for special education. It is a failed experiment that, at best, causes delays of several years before a child can get an IEP and the full special education services they need. Special education calls for the least restrictive environment. Why would the State of Delaware restrict the funding these children need to receive FAPE and the least restrictive environment? This is our moral imperative in Delaware.