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Special Education Hearing: Gray's Opening Statement

The D.C. Council is holding a Committee of the Whole hearing today on reforming the city's special education system. DCPS's special-ed program has been broken for years, with hundreds of students still waiting for services, and others attending private schools at enormous cost to the city.

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray opened the hearing this morning, noting:

"Currently in many cases, our public schools do not provide the services special education students need and deserve. As of this moment, because of DCPS's case management challenges, the District has a backlog of over 1,400 students awaiting court-ordered closure of their special education needs. Further, about one of every five special-education students in Washington attends a private school, compared with one in 11 in Prince George's County and one in 27 in Montgomery County. The effect of this performance is that DCPS spends one-third of its budget on special education, primarily to cover the costs of students who choose to attend private and nonpublic programs and to handle lawsuits resulting from ineffective case management.
Amy Totenberg, the federal court monitor for the Blackman/Jones decree stated that DCPS's "failure" to plan ahead creates, "Confusing lines of authority and responsibility, a lack of clarity and focus...and inadequate regular monitoring of progress. This has led her to believe that we have a long way to go in reforming the system.

Thus, it is crucial that DCPS and the public charter schools expand their ability to meet the needs of children with special needs; a continuum of placement options and services must be available to educate all students. We all must have high expectations for our children with disabilities, as we transition from a traditional special education program to a more inclusive approach."

You can read the entire statement here.

By Marcia Davis  |  December 12, 2008; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  Education  
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