Tag Archives: special education

Challenges and Changes Ahead for Public Education

school-buses-005-2xThe decision on CCJEF (Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding) vs Rell lawsuit was announced and should have significant impact on educational funding in Connecticut.  The decision is far reaching and looks to change not only how schools are funded but also priorities in funding allocation.

Here are the key components of the decision:

  1. A ruling that it is NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL for the state to have a public education financing system that is NOT based on the amount of money it takes to provide every child equitable access to an adequate educational program.
  2. A ruling that the present system for funding public education in CT is unconstitutional because it is irrational.  The judge gave the State 180 days to submit to the plaintiffs in the case a system that is rational.
  3. An apparent ruling that the State has to develop a system for requiring students to actually demonstrate that they have mastered specified content and skills before being awarded a high school diploma and a requirement that there be a State graduation exit exam established for this purpose.
  4. An apparent ruling that the current system for teacher evaluation be revamped so that compensation is based on the results of teacher evaluation.
  5. An apparent ruling that would require the State not to program for children whose special needs are so severe that education cannot materially influence the quality of their lives.

Appeals in the case are likely but it would appear at this juncture all school districts will face significant changes in the future.  Under the ruling, gone would be the days of social promotion and high school diplomas presented with little basis in merit.

Teacher compensation currently structured by contractual obligations rather than individual productivity or merit would be changed to a system based on results of teacher evaluation.  In the land of steady habits, it will be difficult to facilitate real change and not window dressing to institute a realistic system of evaluation and compensation.

Special education would no longer be required for children whose needs are so severe that education cannot materially influence their quality of life.  This may not be as clear cut as it sounds and remains open to some interpretation.  Currently special education costs for a single student can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The “irrational” system for funding education must be changed in Connecticut.   The new formula, under this decision, will not be based on a false premise of a constitutional guarantee to provide every child equitable access to an adequate educational program.

One thing for sure lobbyist and special interest groups will be active to pressure our legislature to preserve, protect and promote their positions as new policies are written.

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An Eye On Ackert, Part 4 Politics And Special Education

ackertState Representative Tim Ackert as a Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Joint Education Committee has educational issues on his mind.  One of those issues is the problem of funding for mandated State services added after a local budget has been approved.

Every year in Coventry and many other towns across Connecticut, funding for local education consumes more than 75% of the annual town budget.  A significant expenditure in the education budget is the allocation of limited resources for our investment into special education services.  The addition of one or more students can make a significant impact in many budgets.

Special education services are mandated by the State with only a portion of the cost being funded by the State.  This can create a financial hurdle when one or more students are added after the budget approval.  The financial impact can be multiple times higher for a single special education student than a student not requiring such services.

Representative Ackert has not only identified this as a problem, he is proposing something be done to address the problem.  Ackert is proposing in HB-5399 that the state be required to reimburse school districts one hundred per cent of the cost of special education for a student who enrolls in the school district in the middle of the school year.

The problem however occurs once a student enrolls after a budget is passed and not just by enrolling after the school year is half over.  The proposal will not totally fix the problem but it is a step in the right direction and may be a compromise to gain support for serious consideration.

In the present form the proposal represents a compromise of fairness between the State and local or regional school districts.  In proposing legislation, it is sometimes wise politics to take small steps to the greater goal than attempting to leap frog over the goal line.

This proposal should receive wide support from every Board of Education and they would be prudent to alert their own Representatives to strongly support HB-5399.  It would be equally sensible for taxpayers to pass this information along to friends across the State of Connecticut.  Activating support from every Board Of Education would be the right thing to do for every student of special needs and every Connecticut taxpayer.

Representative Ackert has voiced concern in the past for the financial burdens State mandates place on local budgets.  This proposal clearly shows he is not only thinking about it, but he is trying to do something about it.

Tim’s concern for taxpayers and the burden of state mandates is also reflecting in his proposal HJ-18 calling for a resolution to amend the State Constitution.  This amendment would require a vote of two-thirds of the General Assembly for municipal mandates.  The proposal would have major political impact and therefore will have little chance of passage at this time.  That does not however, diminish the value of the idea or character of the man making the proposal.

Standing up for your constituents is always the right thing to do; getting things done is not always so easy.  A good politician is the one that can get what he wants for the people he represents.

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