Check it out! MassINC’s Spring 2009 edition is here. Its cover story focuses on special education in Massachusetts–particularly its high cost (approaching $2 billion a year) and effect—“but there is little evidence that the state’s huge investment is paying off as hoped.” The article is found at:
It raises many challenging questions… as it follows the state over the past 10 years, when Massachusetts abandoned its “maximum feasible benefit” standard and moved to the (presumably, lower) federal FAPE standard–providing a free appropriate public education for students with disabilities. In spite of the fact that the change in law was expected to cut the numbers of students eligible for special education and reduce costs, and “prevent the spiraling costs of special education entitlements from derailing the state’s education reform effort,” this report highlights the fact that these goals are unmet.
Since then, the numbers of students receiving special education services has risen. Costs continue to rise, taking funds away from other programs. For example, in Boston, while schools cut budgets across the state, special education funds “escaped virtually unscathed.” One superintendent asked, “How do you set up a class of human beings who are entitled to an education [while] everyone else gets what’s left over?”
The article speaks about private school tuition costs (about a quarter of the state’s special education spending), transportation costs, disparities between communities, and other costs and asks the question: are we better off now than then? That is, have we succeeded in educating children with disabilities, are they passing the state’s graduation requirements, including the test, the MCAS, are gaps narrowing betweeen special and regular education students, are gaps between wealthy and poorer communities narrowing? Etc. The article concludes that our efforts are not paying off as hoped or planned.
A thought-provoking read. Your thoughts?