While it is not secret that the economic decline has affected all areas of the education system. A new poll recently showed how special education administrators are blaming the economy on problems that have been happening for years. It is apparent from our increasing call volume that the special education system is suffering. Special educators were polled in a national survey and pointed to budget cuts which force larger class sizes, layoffs and other changes that compromise their ability to serve students with disabilities.
In the poll of 701 special education administrators from 45 states, nearly all reported that they are experiencing or expect to see an “increased strain on the availability of services” for students with disabilities, according to the Council for Exceptional Children, a professional organization for special educators, which conducted the survey.
The budget squeeze in most districts is inevitably challenging the special education departments, however it is not a reason to limit services, evaluations or to remove eligibility. This is what we are seeing in our office. School districts are using new techniques to remove services and supports or in the worst case scenarios, eligibility. The school districts are also using RtI as a long-term alternative despite the intention of RtI which is meant to be a short-term intervention/identification tool. This is a ploy by the school districts to limit the number of students who are eligible for special education services. OSEP recently came out with a memo directly contradicting this practice and cautioning school districts against overusing RtI and failing to evaluate students properly. Evaluations and standardized tests cannot be replaced by CBMs and classroom observations. The economy is a consideration but it should not be used as an excuse to not provide students with disabilities a FAPE.