|"Education, It's Your Time to Go." (Image from Flickr by dullhunk)|
As school districts across the country grapple with dwindling revenues and growing budget deficits, they are cutting more and more programs and services. So far, there has been a lot of whining and complaining by teachers and parents, but not much action.
Now, the California Department of Education is planning to investigate whether San Francisco Unified School District violated federal law by denying summer school services to students with special needs in order to save money. According to a report by The Bay Citizen, the district’s head of middle school special education, Lisa Miller, told teachers and staff to check with her before authorizing summer school for special needs students because it was too expensive.
The directive, sent to teachers via an email obtained the Bay Citizen, may have violated the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which prohibits school officials from denying special education services based on cost (though it does not provide sufficient revenue for districts to comply). The state Department of Education has been investigating SFUSD’s education plans for roughly 80 of its 6,000 special needs students for the past year, and has found that the district had violated more than 100 state and federal regulations.
A district representative denied the allegations, saying that some staff were offering summer school to all special education students. While this may have been true, it should not be a problem. Anyone who wants to go to summer school should be able to go. Of course all schools should also have sufficient classrooms, teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses, textbooks and lab equipment, which they do not.
The only reason to triage summer school students is when there is a shortage of classrooms and teachers, something that is essentially a byproduct of state budget cuts and dwindling property tax revenues. SFUSD may indeed be guilty of violating state and federal laws designed to protect the educational rights of special needs students. However, the state is really to blame for slashing education spending by over $20 billion over the past four years, thus forcing school districts to cut services and triage students, as are the feds, for providing only a one-time pittance to help bail out school districts during the recession.
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