The Delaware Special Education nightmare has gone on long enough. Years ago, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a bill to give extra funding for special education students. With categories such as basic, complex and intensive, this unit-based funding model allots funds based on the number of special education categories there are in each grade at each school. For basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade there is no difference in the funding than their peers in regular education in those grades. Last year, State Rep. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 30 which would give this funding to students in those grades. It was released from the House Education Committee soon after but it has sat in the House Appropriations Committee ever since. Meanwhile, our Governor, in his latest proposed budget for FY2017 has failed once again to give that funding.
The result of this is hundreds of Delaware students not getting proper special education services, required by Federal law. This is what happens: a parent requests an IEP. Many schools in Delaware deny the IEP in those grades since they know they won’t get the funding for it unless it is a higher category. If they do approve it, they have to use the miniscule federal IDEA-B funding they get and the rest comes from their local funding. In many cases, services written into the IEP such as occupational therapy or counseling are not given to students because of this obscene lack of funding.
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is misguided if they truly believe any funding for their redistricting plan will give funding for students in K-3 who are considered basic special education. The Governor did not put it in the budget. But they still present to public bodies that these students will get these funds. And every time I call them out on it, someone tells me “we’re working on it”. If it was truly a priority, it would be there. No questions asked. I’ve been telling them this since day one. The Wilmington advocates can talk about how many generations of students have lost because of no services. How about the millennia of people with disabilities who have always been cast aside with education funding as if they aren’t even worth it. Federal law requires the funding to be available to be provided for students with disabilities. If you want to talk about discrimination and mistreatment, please remember that. And also remember many African-American students also have disabilities, statewide.
Our Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell want to provide $18 million in funding to early education for the next fiscal year. One of the goals of this, according to them, is to reduce the amount of students needing special education services in their first few years of school. On the surface, this looks honorable, but be assured that it is not. What Markell and the DOE have failed to recognize (or know completely) is the fact that disabilities are neurologically based. By giving them the extra support in those early years and then putting them into Kindergarten without the funding to sustain those services, these children will suffer. It is not right to put the bulk of this funding on the local education agencies. By not giving this funding, these children have suffered. No amount of Response to Intervention is going to cure a disability. I firmly believe it is a tactic by which these special needs children are purposely denied this funding.
These students don’t do well on state assessments. Markell and the DOE have always known this. State assessments are not designed to make students proficient. They lose their meaning if everyone does well. So the powers that be want these students to do bad on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I have heard horror stories this year from teachers who say it takes students with disabilities five times longer to do sections of the test than their regular peers. And they still won’t reach this mythological proficiency. This was something that could only be carefully planned. It is why the Governor gave NO allocations for it in any budget since he signed the needs-based funding bill. It would interfere with his Education Inc. testing buddies and their huge hedge fund returns. It is also far easier to give these students a career path towards menial jobs than to give them the funding they deserve so they could perhaps have a shot at success. You may fool people all the time, but you have NEVER fooled me. One only needs to look at Delaware Online Checkbook to see this strategy of yours has hurt many students and families over the past four years.
So please sign the change.org petition: https://www.change.org/p/peter-schwartzkopf-pass-house-bill-30-in-delaware-giving-basic-special-education-funding-to-students-in-k-3 and demand our General Assembly pass House Bill 30. The time is NOW for this bill to move forward. We can no longer sit by and watch while the most vulnerable to students suffer needlessly. Tonight at the Red Clay board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty told the board and the audience to support HB30. Their board passed a resolution supporting it. All Delaware school boards need to do the same. I asked the Capital Board of Education months ago to do the same thing but they have not addressed this at all.