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Our Kids Deserve Better

Huge Special Education Disparity Between EGRPS and Other KISD Public Schools

Why should you care about this information? Because it affects you, too. If kids needing special education aren’t identified by the district, the efforts of the general ed teacher become diluted even further, especially as ParaPros and other in-class supports are eliminated. The general ed teacher ends up spending more time with students who should have additional supports. This impacts everyone in the classroom, including the general population and gifted students.
Then you’ll be very interested in this post. Please read it. Thanks for stopping by!

The above graphic compares the percentage of K-12 special education kids within East Grand Rapids Public Schools to the percentage of K-12 special education kids found in the other KISD public schools. The numbers in the blue bars are the number of kids at EGRPS who have IEPs (i.e., special ed).

While there is a overall downward trend in the other KISD public schools, the slope of EGR’s decline is severe, creating a much wider gap between EGR and the other KISD schools.

EGRPS started low in 2006, compared to the other KISD public schools, and then they cut the number of identified special ed kids dramatically. Now the percentage of EGRPS kids identified as special ed is 55% lower than other KISD public schools.

Are EGR Kids Really that Different?

No.

While there certainly are differences between various districts in terms of social-economic levels, and those differences can impact the needs of kids, there is no reason to believe there are actual differences in the underlying populations that explain the sharp differences shown in the graphic. That is, the difference between the other KISD public schools and EGRPS can’t be because the population living within EGR’s geographical boundaries is somehow magically immune from special needs. Or that someone put something in the EGR water supply six years ago that suddenly started making EGR kids radically smarter, miraculously more capable.

It would be one thing if there were a single year in which EGR stood out so blatantly from the average of its peers. However, there is a very real, material difference in each of the school years above.

Now, EGRPS may not consider the other KISD public schools to be their “peers,” but it really doesn’t matter. From 2006 to 2011, East Grand Rapids Public Schools had the sharpest decline in the percentage of identified special ed kids of any K-12 public school in the state having more than 1000 kids. And in 2011, the district earned the dubious distinction of having the lowest special education population of any K-12 public school in Michigan. So, EGRPS truly doesn’t have any peers when is comes to cutting special ed.

Our Kids Deserve Better

Clearly, there are other factors at play in determining whether kids in East Grand Rapids qualify for special education services…policies, standards, attitudes.  Those factors have led to a radical decline in the number of identified special ed kids in East Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Amidst the celebratory noise of state football championships and high MEAP scores, the special ed population at East has been quietly, consistently, and radically eroded.

President Jimmy Carter said, “The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens.” I wonder how the EGRPS society measures up.

As an parent, student, educator, or special ed professional in the area, what are your thoughts? What are your experiences? How do your experiences compare with what you know of East and other districts? Please leave a comment.

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2 Comments

  1. It appears the EGR district does not want the cost of special ed instructers and aid’s needed to address the needs of special ed kids—therefore saving $$ for other programs, excess administrators etc?

    Correct or am I coming to the wrong conclusion? EGR residents recently polled by district show 65% of people believe the #1 cut for the district should be at administrative level. Their is a superintendent & 3 assistant superintendents—all very highly compensated. In a district that has declining enrollment & test scores is this necessary & any way to run a business?

    • Hi, Mike

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

      I think special education is a quiet place to make significant cuts; no one really notices. Although services are mandated for those who qualify, the district can, in large part, determine whom they qualify and trim the population accordingly. (As an example of this, see the post on EGR’s secret to minimizing LD kids.) Parents of special needs kids have little recourse except to proceed with a lonely fight (sometimes every year) and/or incur significant legal fees to get their kids appropriate services; parents in other districts apparently don’t have near the same amount of dispute and negotiation to get and keep a child qualified (see comments below that post).

      East Grand Rapids cut its special ed population 45% in five years, more than any other Michigan K-12 public district with more than 1000 kids. That doesn’t just happen on its own. Suddenly then they can say, “Hey, we don’t have many special ed kids, so we can cut staff, too.” I’m sure this is financially tempting, especially in EGR; because of the relatively low number of poverty households in EGR, the district receives far less Title 1 funds than other KISD districts. But it’s not the right thing to do. Our kids deserve better.

      You’re right on the fact that 66% of community respondents said, cut the amount of administrators, and that this was the #1 identified area.

      I’m not sure the district has had declining enrollment. It’s been pretty steady over many years, slightly below 3,000. I am glad to see they were going to allow Schools of Choice for EGR for next year. Previously, when budgets were sufficient enough to shut the doors to the outside, East did (e.g., 2010/2011). I don’t think that was a financially smart decision. Now, in crisis mode, they suddenly open up 33 spots. That’s a good deal of money. Perhaps too little too late, though.

      I think the Board has to make some tough decisions. No question about it. But if the district can erode the special ed population, some of the weakest members of the EGR school society, by 45% in just five years, one would hope administrators would have the courage to take their lumps as well.

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