Parents Protest as Schools Delay Screening to Save Money
Since a 1975 federal law gave students with learning disabilities a right to special education, the number of such students who receive such services has risen to 6 percent of the public school population. The figure was less than 2 percent in 1977.Among the issues that concern my fellow parents, special education strikes a particularly deep nerve. Two of the cuts to the originally proposed LCPS budget this year were for positions dealing directly with special education, an Eligibility Coordinator and a Diagnostician. This will have an impact on many students and parents.
Many educators say learning disabilities have been over-diagnosed and are seeking ways to address learning difficulties in mainstream classrooms, rather than addressing them through special education for as much as twice the cost. Loudoun officials estimate their cost per pupil in special education is $22,000 a year, compared with $12,000 for most students.
This is the most complicated issue I have come across. Assistant Principals generally oversee special education programs within their schools. I know of multiple APs who are hailed by the parents at their schools as great educators and administrators and at the same time decried as harsh, uncaring bullies by other parents who watched the AP lead the process of evaluating their child and meeting the child's needs.
Special education is at once a highly specialized field and one that affects kids in nearly every classroom. It is at the same time a challenge that requires a systemic approach and one in which every child must be cared for individually. These contradictions lead to many questions but no answers.