Last Modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:20 AM
Education seems to be in a constant state for reform, but when it comes to the way special education funding is reformed, extra care needs to be exercised to make sure the students don’t suffer and local educators and parents get plenty of input into any changes.
Louisiana superintendents are understandably cautious when it comes to a proposed overhaul of funding special education.
“For us to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ we really have to see the impact on our districts,” said Michael Faulk, chairman of the 21-member public Superintendents Advisory Council.
State Superintendent of Education John White has listened to the concerns of the parish superintendents and has agreed to change the initial plan. White wants to revamp Louisiana’s funding method so that state aid for special education students is based on the type of disability, what setting is used to educate the student and academic performance.
Under the latest plan, the state would roll out a limited tryout of the new funding method for the 2013-14 school year, then examine the results. Whether the new funding method will take effect statewide in 2015-16 as initially envisioned is unclear.
“I think we need to see what the impact is,” White said.
Under current rules, the state allocates dollars strictly on the basis of whether a student is classified as special education.
Those students qualify for 150 percent of what rank-and-file students get in state aid. “Today’s model is you put a label on a child and you get money,” White said.
The high school graduation rate for special education students in Louisiana is 29 percent, which is the second-lowest rate in the nation and a key driving force behind the plan.
Doris Voitier, superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish school system, was one of the most outspoken of those wanting more information on the proposal.
“I am not saying I am in favor or opposed,” Voitier said. “I don’t know enough.”
Winn Parish school Superintendent Steve Bartlett said he believes the current system is a good one. He said his support or opposition hinges or whether Winn Parish gains or loses by the proposal.
White assured the local superintendents the impact would be minimal since it is being phased in over three years.
However, the local educators are right to be skeptical. Education is an inherently local responsibility and the local folks, both educators and parents, need to have a major role in any serious changes to special education.
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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.