Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Special Education Study

The MDUSD Special Education Department is going under the microscope. In August the Board of Education (BOE) approved a independent review of special education. The department is also mandated by the State of California to complete a self review. We asked BOE President, Gary Eberhart, to share his goals for the independent study. Here is his response:

This is a study that I initially requested and the Board approved to be done. The outcomes that we are hoping for are several:

1. First and foremost, we want to ensure that special education students are being appropriately served and that our school district is exhibiting good customer service as it pertains to the service that we provide to the students and the families of our school district. Too often I receive e-mails and phone calls from parents who are having extreme difficulties navigating our special education system. We need to make sure that we are the advocates of our students, not adversaries.

2. Ensure that we are minimizing the use of our legal services department in the service that we provide to special education students. We spend a lot of money on legal fees related to special education students. I know that the special education system lends itself to excessive spending for legal services on both sides of an issue. We need to ensure that every available dollar that is earmarked for serving special education students is being used on that effort. I am not convinced that the student is well served when both sides are arguing points through attorneys.

3. Ensure that we are appropriately serving students in program that best meet their needs and the needs of their families.

4. Ensure that our management structures and the management systems that we are utilizing are efficient and effective.

5. Finally, special education costs have been escalating for the last 10 years at a rate that is unsustainable. We are concerned that if costs exceed the amount that we can pay that it will negatively impact our ability to provide good service to our special education population. Some people have characterized this concern by saying that I (Gary Eberhart) am trying to cut services to special education students. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Special education is a $68 million program in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. It would be completely irresponsible of the Board to do nothing when it is evident that the cost escalation is unsustainable beyond the next 2 to 4 years. We must ensure that we are using best practices, efficient management practices, and a decreasing level of litigation if we are going to properly serve special education students in our district.

I hope this helps to clarify the position of the Board and the rationale behind the study.
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