Thursday, May 24, 2012

Romney Needs an I.E.P.* on School Funding

The big education story today is Mitt Romney's “education platform,” which was unveiled, curiously, during a speech to the Latino Coalition (where he didn’t mention “self-deportation.”) He did say that education was the “civil rights issue of our time,” a phrase used by everyone from President Obama to George W. Bush to Arne Duncan to (more locally) Chris Christie and Chris Cerf.

 Response has been, well, mixed. Andy Rotherham says “it’s basically President George W. Bush’s education policy – but without the accountability.” Other commentary refers to a presumed pandering to the ebbing support of the Hispanic community given Romney's troglodytic attitude towards the Dream Act. Also see reactions from Politics K-12, NPR, New York Times, Wall Street JournalMike Petrelli, Politico, and NEA.

Reports the New York Times,
Mr. Romney’s biggest departure from existing policy was his call for poor students and those with disabilities to be able to attend any public school in their state — “or a private school where permitted by law” — and to have federal funds follow them, rather than the current system in which the money stays with a student’s local school.
Romney's proposed "policy" betrays a cavernous lack of understanding of the nuances of school funding, particularly in the realm of special education. Students with disabilities already can attend private schools at the district's expense, provided that the I.E.P. team decides that a private placement is the least restrictive environment for the student. In addition federal money comprises only about 10% of school costs, which won’t go far with private school tuition for both poor students and kids with special needs. Edweek’s Special Education blog comments,
But it appears Romney didn't consult with special education advocacy groups before making his pitch. While special education vouchers have grown in popularity in recent years, the number of programs is small, and the number of participants is also tiny.  
Many advocacy groups warn parents against using vouchers for students with disabilities because, in doing so, they give up their rights outlined in federal education and disability laws. And they may not know that. 
"We have to remember that a family with a child who has a disability never really has the same choice as others. By virtue of having a disability that qualifies them for an Individualized Education Program, a private school for instance, would never guarantee via a voucher that they would provide a free appropriate public education and the services outlined in the IEP," said Laura Kaloi of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
* I.E.P.: Individualized Education Plan, a federally mandated contract between a child with disabilities and a school district that delineates services,  accommodations, and modifications to the curriculum in order to provide a free and appropriate public education.


kallikak said...

Best response yet to Mitt and the "reformers'(from Andy Rotherham's blog):

Bill Jones Says:
May 25th, 2012 at 9:20 am

If “choice” were THE cure all there would NOT be market failure in health care, health insurance, and energy markets.

Education has become a civil right. It is a scarce resource. There is NOT an infinite supply of super teachers in math and science, just as there is NOT an infinite supply of outstanding politicians or doctors.

Education IS allocated by income level, also known as neighborhood quality. With education a civil right, any rational allocation based on prices is out the window, and so is cost control.

Education is slated to become a cost failure just as health care and health insurance are. When parents became consumers of a public good rather than citizens, the system failed.

WHEN we let price ration school choice, as the proponents wish to do, then some will get none, and some will get all. That is how markets work. That is the way they have always worked. They do not work any other way.

Our system provides mediocre results for ALL students on average which means this outcome has TWO TAILS. Some are getting a REAL DEAL, and some are getting cheated. The supporters of edu-reform failed math, and statistics and assume the rest of us did also.

What should concern all citizens is this simple point: Those who are driving the edu-reform debate are entirely UNACCOUNTABLE to taxpayers. If this whole thing falls apart, NO ONE will have been in charge.

The Dysturbed said...

"Students with disabilities already can attend private schools at the district's expense, provided that the I.E.P. team decides that a private placement is the least restrictive environment for the student." How do parents get the child study team to sign off on that (short of suing the school district)? I'm a mother to a kid on the spectrum and I would love for my child to go to a private school, but she isn't as severe enough to warrant attending a special needs school.