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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ellen McHugh on the report of the Space-Sharing Taskforce



Here are comments from Ellen McHugh of the Citywide Council on Special Education about the just-released report of the Space Sharing taskforce.

This is Mom and apple pie.  Who can disagree with giving vulnerable students an opportunity to succeed?  When have we as a society ever, publicly, denied these students their rightful places in schools? The proof is in the pudding...to carry the food analogy.

One big issue is ignored:

"By state law, charter schools are generally exempt from laws, rules, regulations or policies governing public or private schools other than those requirements relating to health and safety, civil rights, and student assessment requirements.  It is the working group’s hope that all schools work together to implement these recommendations."

There's the loop hole that the schools in question will use to escape as many issues as is possible.  We will watch folks wringing hands and wrangling concessions.  What's new about that, except that we are in a two tier, twice funded, twisted system.  The Chancellor and the Mayor can say all they want about their dedication to and conviction that all students should have opportunity.  They join a chorus of many other Mayors and Chancellors.  This chorus has had a good deal of practice but no impact, none, on the issue of appropriate space for students with special needs.  Why not, you ask? 

Buildings don't change unless added to, most buildings were not built at a time when students with special needs attended school.  Since many of the students require smaller class sizes in order to have the necessary attention from teachers, the DOE needs to commit to lower class sizes.  A class of 26 students, with 40% of them having IEPs or 504 plans that are disparate and require different methodologies, is a burden that no two teachers can support.  No private school...Dalton, Hackley, etc.etc...has that number of students in a class, yet the fact that we, public school parents, are supposed to be glad or happy that we even have a class is a mockery of education philosophy and policy.

"It's difficult to manage all of the moving parts involved in sharing spaces within a physical plant, including cost sharing, staffing, managing equipment and repairs, and scheduling. As a result, resources may be used inefficiently and inequitably on many campuses."

Parents and community members have been commenting and complaining about this since the co-locations began.  A panel had to be convened to bring this to the attention of the DOE?

"Beginning in 2010, State law requires that in all co-located buildings where more than $5,000 is spent on capital improvements or facility upgrades to accommodate a charter school co-location, improvements or upgrades in an equal amount must be made for each non-charter school within the public school building"

Where is the documentation that this has occurred in a timely and efficient manner? If this has occurred in co-located schools then why are we still hearing about students with special needs getting services in hall ways and under stair cases?

"Engage the office of enrollment in work with middle and high school principals to develop and enforce reasonable caps on enrollment. These caps should work to mitigate overcrowding, which negatively impacts students, and prevent schools from receiving inappropriately high concentrations of high-need students."

This sentence scares the living daylights out of me.  Capping means that kids with special needs will be frozen out of the schools.  Adding trailers was not a solution.  Segregating students in separate schools was not a solution. Sending students all over the city to schools with space was not a solution.  Educating students with special needs in their home school, with their peers, their siblings and their neighbors, learning both age appropriate academics and age appropriate social skills is a solution.  

While I believe that high concentrations of high needs students is not a solution, who defines high needs?  Having an IEP or a 504 plan already determines a high needs student.  How easy would that be to identify and then arbitrarily limit access by knowing a child has an IEP.  Parents are already wary of the IEP process and now we are handing schools an easy way to identify, and deny access to high needs students. 

1 comment:

jcg said...

Here we see the consequences of Arne's decision to end SPED compliance in 2011. He's setting back special education 50 years. Meanwhile, congress sits on its hands and allows him to rule with impunity.