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Our Kids Deserve Better

And the Candidates Said…

We invited the five School Board candidates to respond to six questions related to the issues on this blog.

None of the candidates chose to respond.

Perhaps responding to the six questions was fraught with too much risk. Perhaps even those candidates who are concerned, feel it’s better to wait until after the election to raise those concerns.

Whatever the reason, let’s hope those who are elected don’t stay silent once they take their seats on the Board.

As a result, there are few public clues to how these candidates might respond to the issues on this blog. Here’s what we’ve been able to gather.

From the Candidates’ Forum

There was a Candidates’ Forum on October 9. About 100 people attended the event moderated by the Administration.

For information, you can check out our review of the Forum and what we heard from the Candidates during the Forum.

From Candidates’ Websites

We reviewed the websites of Mr. Hessler, Ms. Rabideau, Mr. Ruppert, and Ms. Lykins to see if any of the candidates had chosen to highlight the issue on his/her website. We also looked at any related social media sites of the candidates.

Unless we missed something, we only found one candidate that addressed special education concerns on his/her website. If you’re aware of any responses from the other candidates, please let us know.

Ms. Rabideau’s Site

Below is an excerpt from the Q&A section of Michelle Rabideau for EGR School Board website.

Q: I’m concerned about our special education program. What are the schools doing to make sure this remains a priority?

A: I am proud that as a public school system, we are required to offer such programs to support all students enrolled in the district. There are several federal and state mandates toward special education that guide what we offer and we fulfill all of their requirements. Last year, we received $2,054,009 for overall funding for the 184 students receiving special education services. Our district spent $2,497,154 which is greater than what we received from funding but demonstrates an additional investment from the schools. Having both kids go through our special education program during their elementary years for a speech impairment, I feel strongly about making sure we provide a great educational experience for all students.

Our Comments
  • Ms. Rabideau cites 184 students that received special education services last year. There were 178 special ed students (K-12: 164 + Early Childhood: 14) on the fall 2011 count day. That means a net of only 6 students were identified for special education during the year. Last year, there were 14 seniors who had IEPs. So we know this year’s total on count day will drop by 14 for the exiting seniors. Unless there’s a significant influx of kindergarteners with IEPs, it looks like the number of K-12 special ed kids will fall yet again.
  • Last year’s special ed count from the State shows 164 K-12 special ed kids and 14 Early Childhood special ed kids. Combining these two groups, does not give a clear picture of what’s going on at the K-12 level. In our post, “Playing with the Numbers,” we talk about why it’s important to isolate what’s happening at the K-12 level, how the numbers get skewed when one doesn’t do that, and why it’s important to compare apples to apples. Instead of giving constituents some combined number that obscures things, why not be transparent? The count day for general and special ed students was October 3. The district already knows how many K-12 special ed kids there were on that date; and Ms. Rabideau, as a board member, should be able to easily get that information. Why not let constituents know what the K-12 special ed count was for fall 2012? What would be the harm in that?
  • Funding for Early Childhood is completely different from K-12. If we want to talk about funding and expenses, let’s be transparent and show what gets spent where.
  • Also, we can’t merely look at funding. The vast majority of the expenditures are for fixed costs (salaries). Just because the District is employing people doesn’t necessarily mean kids with special needs are receiving appropriate services or being appropriately identified and qualified for special education.
  • “…we fulfill all of their requirements.” —We are not sure how any candidate or board member could reasonably come to that conclusion in such a short period of time. Data from the State shows special education at East was cut 45% in five years, to the lowest level of any public K-12 district in the state. We published this information three weeks ago. There is no way a meaningful study of the data and district practices by all stakeholders (let alone one person) could be conducted in such a short period of time. We need to study why this has happened, why the district is so out of step with other districts in the state, and whether and to what extent the district’s practices contribute to the middle school and Lakeside Elementary being designated as Focus Schools, which the State defines as “schools [that] have the greatest issues in supporting their lowest achieving students, whether their overall performance is high or low.”

 What do you think?

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