In this time of economic down turns and crunched budgets, I see every school district around me making cuts. Some are cutting services like bussing and supplemented aftercare, while others are actually cutting into academics, eliminating programs like Advanced Placement classes and gifted and talented programs.
However, due to federal and many state laws, school districts are required to provide special ed services regardless of the external budgetary impacts.
The problem with special education is that it is indisriminate. There are some children with issues like dyslexia, mild autism spectrum disorder, etc., who with support can essentially graduate on par with their peers.
Similarly, there are some kids who are emotionally impaired who with the right services can perform as well as an average kid. Programs to support these types of kids seem like good investments. However, what about the child with fetal alcohol syndrome and a functional IQ of 70 and a mental age that will never exceed 11 in terms of maturity?
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Special education in this instance is very expensive and has very little return on investment of public dollars. I have seen much more severely imparied children who have 1:1 staff ratios in the public schools in these same programs. In many cases, these programs smack of essentially specialized daycare with no educational benefit for anyone.
I think it is time that the blanket rules for special education be questioned. Insteady of providing very expensive resources for severely disabled children, we should spend these resources in a more targeted manner, focusing on those kids who actually have a reasonable chance of achieving independence.
If we are not moving a special needs student to independence, then what is the purpose of keeping these children in the public *education* system and consuming financial resources that could better spent elsewhere? I have no problem taking care of the severely disabled, but I question whether our public education system should bear any of this financial burden.
Educators in special ed are required to create a specialized case plan for each student they service. It is typically called an IEP - individualized education plan. It is a series of treatments, programs, and staffing levels identified for each student to meet their specific needs. I think additional criteria must be added to include likelihood of independence. If a student is unlikely to achieve independence or if the likelihood is known to be zero, then I believe it is time to say enough and put these kids under SSI disability and stop the draw on limited education funds.
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I am not proposing that we stop taking care of our severely disabled children. Rather, I am saying it is time to stop asking the public education systems to take on this burden