Articles in the Special Education category

NSBA President urges U.S. House of Representatives to invest in public education

NSBA President David A. Pickler testifies on education funding

NSBA President David A. Pickler testifies on education funding

On Tuesday, March 25, 2014, National School Boards Association (NSBA) President David A. Pickler testified on education funding issues before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Pickler was the only witness selected from the K-12 community to address specifically the funding needs of America’s public schools.

In his testimony, Pickler, a 16-year member of the Shelby County Board of Education in Memphis, Tenn., spoke on challenges confronting public schools, including the impact of federal budget sequestration on schools, issues concerning competitive grant programs, and the need for the federal government to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Although much of the funds affected by federal budget sequestration have been restored in Fiscal Year 2014, many school districts have suffered a significant loss of resources. K-12 programs and Head Start were affected by a reduction of almost $2.8 billion in Fiscal Year 2013. Pickler noted that strong public schools are essential to America’s economic stability and global competitiveness and encouraged Congress to develop a plan to protect the nation’s educational investment.

“Our school districts have weathered the storm; but the storm cannot and must not continue,” said Pickler. “Looking to Fiscal Year 2016, we urge you to proactively develop a plan that will protect education investments as a critical asset for economic stability and American competitiveness.”

Pickler noted, “The increase in competitive grants programs has prompted significant concern, in that new programs are being created while foundational programs with proven success–such as IDEA and Title I grants for disadvantaged students–are at stagnant funding levels. Increasing the federal share of funding for these key programs is paramount.”

Pickler was one of 22 witnesses invited to testify. Other education groups represented include colleges, health organizations, charitable groups, and various health and human services organizations.

Following Pickler’s testimony ranking member Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) thanked Pickler for his testimony and acknowledged the massive drop in the federal funding for public education.

Pickler’s full submitted testimony is available on NSBA’s website. You can watch Pickler’s testimony, but due to some audio issues, while Pickler’s remarks begin at 02:27:05 timestamp, audio is not corrected until 02:31:47 timestamp.

Alexis Rice|March 25th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Special Education|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA applauds proposed K-12 budget increase, but more funds needed for Title I and special education

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) welcomed the 2 percent increase in discretionary funding for education in President Obama’s $3.9 trillion proposed federal budget for fiscal 2015. But NSBA leaders remain concerned that the budget did not include badly needed increases in two of the most foundational formula programs for school districts: Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“We applaud President Obama’s pledge to raise K-12 education funding at a time when strong public schools are vitally important to America’s families and the nation’s global competitiveness,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said. “However, we are deeply disappointed to see no increases for Title I and IDEA despite the critical need for these programs and the tremendous burden that the lack of federal funding for them is putting on school districts.”

Currently, the federal government provides less than 16 percent of the cost of IDEA, despite promising three decades ago when the law was passed to pay 40 percent of excess costs. Title I is similarly underfunded.  In order to adequately meet needs of the 10 million disadvantaged children who qualify for the program, the federal government would need to increase its Title I appropriation by more than $30 billion, according to the Committee for Education Funding.

Among the president’s proposals are $500 million to help states improve early childhood programs, and a $300 million Race to the Top competition for states that would be targeted toward reducing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and those from middle-class and wealthy families.

Lawrence Hardy|March 5th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Programs, Race to the Top (RTTT), Special Education|Tags: , , , |

NSBA and AASA express concern about new restraint and seclusion bill in U.S. Senate

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued a joint statement today in response to new legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The new bill would reduce the authority of states and local school districts to decide the appropriate use of restraint and seclusion in public schools. Restraint and seclusion are used as a last resort in situations that may endanger the safety and welfare of students, teachers and other school personnel.

We agree with Harkin that routine use of restraint and seclusion is indeed inappropriate. However, we believe this legislation is a federal overreach—it fails to recognize the need for local school personnel to make decisions based on their onsite, real-time assessment of the situation. This includes school officials’ consideration of lesser interventions before making the decision to use restraint or seclusion. Our primary concern must be the safety of all students and school personnel.

Seclusion and restraint are only exercised to protect students and school personnel when other measures fail. A 2011 survey of AASA members found that 70 percent of districts invest local funds in annual training to ensure that school personnel use seclusion and restraint judiciously, first engaging in de-escalation techniques and other nonviolent crisis intervention strategies.

Of equal importance, we’re also concerned that the bill would allow parents to go to court without first exercising administrative procedures afforded to them under the current Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This bypass encourages litigation and diminishes congressional intent that parents and school districts collaborate to address student special needs. We’re also concerned that the federal court system does not have the capacity to take on these additional cases.

Even with limited funding, local school board and school administrator policies continue to demonstrate best practices beyond state requirements on the use of seclusion and restraint. This is further supported by a 2011 survey, in which nine out of 10 superintendents said their school districts would benefit from additional funding to implement school-wide positive behavioral support and intervention systems and nonviolent crisis interventions.

We urge Harkin to reconsider his position and work closely with local school boards and superintendents to develop legislation that ensures maximum authority to local school districts while ensuring safety for all students.

Alexis Rice|February 12th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, School Climate, School Security, Special Education|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA urges federal courts to correctly apply IDEA

Working with two state school boards associations, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has signed on to amicus briefs in cases that would impact school districts’ ability to provide special education services to students.

These amicus briefs—one filed in the U. S. Supreme Court in two California cases, the other in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dealing with a Kentucky case—ask the courts to reconsider rulings that misinterpret the main federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In the Supreme Court brief, which addresses two consolidated cases, Tustin Unified School District v. K.M. and Poway Unified School District v. D.H., NSBA and the California School Boards Association encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to hear these cases, contending that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit misapplied the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), rather than correctly applying IDEA, to a case involving a California student with a hearing impairment.

In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit deferred to an interpretation of the ADA urged by the U.S. Department of Justice, which argued that school districts have additional obligations under the ADA’s “effective communication” regulation, even when they have put in place Individualized Education Programs (IEP) that meet the IDEA’s requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

“It is important for the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case, as the Ninth Circuit opinion ignores 20 years of precedents on special education law and represents yet another example of a federal agency exceeding its authority over educational decision making,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said.

In each of the California cases, the school district denied the request of a high school student with hearing disabilities to use a word-for-word translation service in the classroom, but offered other accommodations. In each case, both the administrative hearing officers and the district court found that the school district had fully complied with the IDEA. However, the Ninth Circuit sided with the plaintiffs, saying that the ADA imposes additional obligations not covered under IDEA.

Under IDEA’s cooperative team approach to assessing the appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities, a multidisciplinary IEP team determines a student’s educational needs based on comprehensive evaluations by specialists in the field.  Under the Ninth Circuit’s decision, NSBA argues, school districts must give “primary consideration” to the parents’ desire for specific services, programs, placements or supports—regardless of whether they are appropriate.

In a third case, Boone County Board of Education v. N.W. , NSBA is joining with the Kentucky School Boards Association in urging the Sixth Circuit to reverse a district court decision involving a student with autism and a speech disorder. The issue before the court is whether a school district must  pay for a private school placement unilaterally chosen by the student’s parents when the district has made a “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE) available to the student.

“The decision in Boone County Board of Education v. N.W., as it stands, would force cash-strapped school districts to bear the high costs of private placements during litigation, even when a court ultimately rules that the district has made FAPE available in a public school setting,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. “The lower court’s decision sets a terrible precedent that prolongs due process and court proceedings and discourages informal resolution of special education disputes through mediated settlement. It must be reversed.”

 

Alexis Rice|February 4th, 2014|Categories: Federal Programs, School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , , |

School boards urge federal appeals court to follow precedent regarding harassment cases

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to follow standards—carefully developed by U.S. Supreme Court rulings—for determining a school district’s liability in cases of harassment.

NSBA and TASB filed an amicus brief in Lance v. Lewisville Independent Sch. Dist. that maintains school districts should not be held liable under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of disability, in instances where school officials tried but were unsuccessful in completely stopping the harassment.

The amicus brief asks the court to follow the U.S. Supreme Court rulings that follow long-established standards to hold a district liable under federal anti-discrimination laws.  Those cases hold schools liable only where school officials with appropriate authority deliberately refuse to take action to respond to known actions of harassment. NSBA and TASB caution the court against using the informal guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) in an October 26, 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter as the legal standard to impose monetary damages in such cases.

“The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is advocating for an expansive standard of liability that would hold schools responsible in virtually all cases where harassment was not completely eliminated despite the district’s efforts to protect students,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “That is not what the law intends, and it would be an unprecedented change from previous Supreme Court rulings.”

The lawsuit was brought by parents of a student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, who committed suicide at school when he was in fourth grade. Although the school had provided a full psychological evaluation and responded to complaints of harassment, the parents sued the school district on allegations that the school district’s failure to do enough to stop the continuing harassment of their son. Recognizing longstanding precedent, the lower court ruled that the parents could not demonstrate that any district employee had intentionally discriminated against the student solely on the basis of his disability.

“While this case stemmed from a tragic situation, courts should refrain from adopting OCR’s ‘national standard’ and continue to defer to the judgment of educators who are knowledgeable about their communities, work closely with students in their schools, are aware of community resources, and understand the educational and emotional needs of the children entrusted to their care,” said TASB Executive Director James B. Crow.

Read more insights on NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|August 7th, 2013|Categories: School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA encourages U.S. Supreme Court to clarify school district responsibility for student’s mental health treatment under IDEA

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) urges the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that school districts are not required to pay for a student’s mental health services in a residential care facility if those services are not needed primarily for educational purposes.

In an amicus brief, NSBA and the Colorado Association of School Boards are asking the High Court to review Jefferson County School District R-1 v. Elizabeth E.,  a case from the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and clarify the limits of the tuition reimbursement provision of the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“School districts are dedicated to educating children with disabilities, but federal law should recognize that they are not designed or funded to function as medical care providers,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Districts should not be required to pay for expensive health services that are needed primarily for medical treatment of mental health issues, not educational needs, because those would be beyond the scope and intent of IDEA.”

The case involves Elizabeth E., a student in Jefferson County, Colo., who was diagnosed with several mental health conditions. Until the eighth grade, she attended a private school, for which the Jefferson County Public Schools agreed to pay half the tuition. When Elizabeth’s behavioral disabilities began escalating, her parents unilaterally placed her in a residential treatment center out of state and sought reimbursement from the school district.

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the parents were entitled to reimbursement under IDEA. The appeals court reached its decision by creating an entirely new standard that added more turmoil to an area of law in which other courts have already devised several conflicting standards, leaving no clear guidance for school districts.

“We urge the High Court to reverse the Tenth Circuit’s ruling which would require public schools to bear mental health care costs under the IDEA in a manner unintended by Congress,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., NSBA’s General Counsel. “The high costs associated with such an interpretation of the IDEA could ultimately undermine the ability of public schools to provide educational services for all children.”

Learn more about the case in NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|May 8th, 2013|Categories: School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , |

District inequities and school safety post-Newtown in the April issue of ASBJ

Uneven funding among affluent and poor school districts is well-documented, but you may not realize that it often occurs among schools in the same district, as well. Senior Editor Del Stover looks at how school leaders are uncovering these funding inequities and how they are fighting the often-difficult political battle to remedy the situation in his April American School Board Journal article, online now.

Also in April, national school safety expert Ronald Stephens weighs in on sensible and commonsense ways that school boards can and should react in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last December.

Our school board success story series, Agents of Change, continues with a Massachusetts school board and superintendent who made a controversial decision to bring its special education program in-house.

Make sure to post your opinion to this month’s Adviser poll, also online at ASBJ’s website.

 

Kathleen Vail|April 2nd, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Budgeting, Diversity, Leadership, School Security, Special Education|Tags: |

NSBA and NYSSBA challenge unilateral placements in special education case

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging a federal appeals court to ensure that school districts are not required to reimburse parents who unilaterally choose educational placements for their children with disabilities if those placements are not appropriate under federal special education law.

NSBA joins the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) in an amicus brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to uphold a lower court decision in C.L. v. Scarsdale Union Free School District. The case was brought by parents who unilaterally placed their child, who has learning disabilities, in a private school then asked the school district for tuition reimbursement. School officials had determined that the child’s disability did not qualify him for special education services under the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law requires students with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children in a regular classroom to the extent it is appropriate to their educational needs.

“IDEA is intended to promote collaboration between schools and families, and a school district should not be required to pay for an inappropriate private placement that was made without its input,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “A core tenet of IDEA is that students with disabilities should not be cut off from environments that include their non-disabled peers.”

The amicus brief written by NYSSBA responds to a U.S. Department of Justice position that the school district should pay for the restrictive placement unless it proves that there were other less restrictive private placements available to the parents but that those options were rejected without reason.

“School districts recognize the importance of working with families to determine appropriate placements for students with disabilities,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy  G. Kremer. “However, a school district shouldn’t be required to pay for a restrictive  private school unilaterally chosen by a parent.  School officials and parents should be partners not adversaries in this process.”

NSBA’s Legal Clips also has written about the case.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|March 25th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, School Boards, School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , |

Education Talk Radio previews NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference

Kanisha Williams-Jones, Director of Leadership & Governance Services at the National School Boards Association (NSBA), was a guest today on Education Talk Radio providing a preview of NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference. Thousands of school board members, administrators, and other educators will be coming to San Diego to take part in the April 13-15 event.

Listen to the broadcast:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio

The conference will feature more than 200 sessions on timely education topics, including federal legislation and funding, managing schools with tight budgets, the legal implications of recent court cases, new research and best practices in school governance, and the Common Core State Standards. A series of sessions will focus on school safety and security.

Expanded education technology programming will include site visits to the University of San Diego and Qualcomm’s Mobile Learning Center to explore its research laboratory on mobile learning; Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to examine the technology in science education and STEM; Encinitas Union School District to view its One-to-One Digital Learning Program; and the San Diego Zoo to learn about the cutting-edge learning tools used to teach at-risk students. U.S. Navy SEALs will show leadership and team building skills during another workshop.

The meeting also includes one of the largest K-12 educational expositions, with some 300 companies showcasing their innovative products and services for school districts.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

It’s not too late to register, visit the Annual Conference website for  more information.

With federal cuts to education looming, school board leaders head to Capitol Hill

More than 700 school board and state school boards association leaders are meeting with members of Congress on Tuesday. They will advocate that Congress protect education programs from across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration.

School board leaders from all parts of the country are currently in Washington D.C. to take part in the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 40th annual Federal Relations Network Conference, being held Jan. 27-29, 2013.

With the sequestration looming, more than 700 school boards have passed resolutions advocating Congress to stop the across-the-board cuts that would dismantle key education programs in their school districts. These federal cuts to K-12 public education would total more than $3 billion this fiscal year. Furthermore, these cuts would continue over a 10-year period and have a devastating effect on our schools, eroding the base of funding for programs that directly impact student learning year after year.

“The federal cuts to public education would impede on the ability of school districts and states to sustain resources for programs that close achievement gaps, raise graduation rates, and retain highly effective teachers,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “K-12 education programs have already been previously reduced on the federal level and the ability to absorb additional budget cuts and provide an enhanced curriculum for all students is extremely limited for many school districts.”

In this school year, 26 states are providing less funding per student to local school districts than they provided a year ago. And in many states, this reduction comes on top of severe cuts made in previous years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Across-the-board cuts to education programs should not be legislated, especially for economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities,” said NSBA’s President C. Ed Massey, a member of the Boone County (Ky.) Board of Education. “Local school boards need to continue raising student achievement should not be consumed or overshadowed by record budget cuts. Key investments will help sustain and continue the progress school districts are making in school improvement, teacher and principal effectiveness, increased graduation rates, and college and career readiness.”

To learn what school board members can do to prevent sequestration go to NSBA’s Stop Sequestration resource at www.nsba.org/stopsequestration.

Alexis Rice|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, FRN Conference 2013, Special Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |
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